“Courage is when you know you are licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” (P.149) Courage, the spirit and soul of virtue, is one of the most significant themes in To kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee uses many of the characters and circumstances in the book, as well as her own deed of writing this novel to demonstrate all facets of courage.
There is a physical courage which is demonstrated by several characters. Atticus Finch accepts the appointment to Tom Robinson's case, and he knew he would certainly lose. During that particular period of time, defending a black man made Finch family become a target for Macomb ’s people. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again. […] Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one's mine, I guess." (P.101) The only reason Atticus takes this case is because he won’t do things that disobey his conscience. Townspeople turn their anger toward Atticus for defending Tom, but this doesn’t stop him. During the court trial, any reasonable person could see that Ewells’ testimony was full of holes, and could realize Tom didn’t commit the crime. The racial prejudices in 1930s let most whites mentally judge this black man guilty. It takes courage for Atticus to do the right thing. Also, Atticus’s deed let Jem learned what the true courage is. At the beginning of the novel, Jem’s idea of bravery is just touching the Redley house, but as the story progresses, he shows his courage by facing the mob and refusing to obey Atticus for the first time in his life. "In the midst of this strange assembly, Atticus stood trying to make Jem mind him. 'I ain't going,' was his steady answer." (P.204) Another person who showed courage was Boo Radley. After all the years hiding in his house, Boo eventually came out and did the final act of courage in the book by saving Scout and Jem from Bob Ewell.
Alone with Atticus, Jem and Boo Radley, few female characters showed their courage in a different way. It’s not a physical kind of courage like facing down a mad dog. Harper Lee did a great job to show the mental courage by creating Mrs. Dubose’s character. This rude, prejudiced old lady, who is addicted to morphine, showed a great courage by succeeding in stop her morphine right before she died. Unlike Mrs. Dubose, Miss Maudie has her own inner strength. "Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while.”(P.60) When Miss Stephanie tries to spread the tales, Miss Maudie rather uses her sharp tongue to fight Miss Stephanie back than just refuse to listen. Such courage is demonstrated by her words. “ Yes Ma’am. They’d burn right with me. They thought I spent too much time in God’s outdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the Bible.” (P.59) Miss Maudie has no fear of others’ gossip, she even talks about it just like a jock.
Furthermore, Harper Lee showed her own bravery by writing the novel. In 1940s, there is no single person, group, or institution put civil rights on the national agenda. Challenging racial prejudice in the United States was a daunting undertaking. Harper Lee manifested courage when she was in collage. She wrote short stories and other works about racial injustice, a rarely mentioned topic on such campuses at the time. Lee moved to New York City in 1950, and spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird. In her creation process, Lee had become so frustrated for a while. She tossed the manuscript out the window into the snow, and her agent made her retrieve it. Finally, the book was published on July 11, 1960, but the editorial team said that Lee could probably sell only several thousand copies. Moreover, In 1966, Lee wrote a letter in response to the attempts of a school board to ban To Kill a Mockingbird as "immoral literature”: “Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board's activities, and what I've heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.[…] I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.”
Therefore, in To Kill a Mockingbird, courage is a prominent quality among the characters. Harper Lee used her own way to show the readers that courage is the strength in the face of pain, is the inner desire to do what is righteous.