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To Kill a Mockingbird Personal Courage Essay

By Mashiyu138 May 28, 2012 1234 Words
How has the novel affected your ideas of PERSONAL COURAGE in the face of INJUSTICE/ prejudice? Refer to elements of the PLOT and specific CHARACTERS to support your position/ comments. As a member of the 21st century, personal courage is defined as the stereotyped image of strength and braveness. Popularized by the popular Nike slogan, “Just Do It”, the society of present believes courage to be able to doing what is necessary without limitations. This meaning however, is juxtaposed by representations of courage in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Through the ‘Bildungsroman’ structure of the novel, the audience is able to relate to Scout as she grows and learns about personal courage in the face of injustice and prejudice. Atticus’ description of courage as “not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what,” [Chapter 11, Page 109] clearly shows his perception of society, serving as his inspiration for defending Tom Robinson against all odds. Miss Maudie, although only a lady, exercises her views in her tea parties and local gatherings and is not afraid to stand up for justice. Lastly, Arthur Radley shows his own courage through the way he fights his fear of society by saving Jem and Scout. The above characters present a view of personal courage as doing what you believe to be right even when you know you are not necessarily going to succeed. This is explored through the social injustice of the 1930s in Maycomb, where blacks are considered to be lowly. Firstly, it is clear that Atticus displays courage for his support of Tom Robinson even when the rest of the prejudiced society is against him. He believes personal courage to be deeper than just a “man with a gun in his hand,” [Chapter 11, Page 109] as seen through his hesitation to shoot the mad dog even though he was nicknamed “one shot Finch” [Ch 10, Pg 104] during his youth. Instead, he displays moral courage by pursuing his beliefs of equality and going against the traditional status quo and. In Maycomb, blacks are inferior to white people, and this can be seen through their seclusion in society. Atticus, as a white person, believes justice to be when everybody is equal, and stands up for Tom Robinson even though it is not the popular option. He sets an example for his children, demonstrating that “You never really understand a person, until you consider things from his point of view” [Ch 3, Pg30]. This drew him a lot of opposition, being called names such “nigger lover”, which shows the injustice and prejudice that Maycomb places on black people and even white people who associate with them. Atticus not only defends Tom Robinson in the court case, he also stands up against the mob of people who were attempting to kill Tom. This shows his willingness to sacrifice his own life to protect what he believes in, which depicts a more stereotyped image of courage. Even if he loses friends in the process and knows that he will not succeed, he carries on with the court case, showing his personal courage in the face of injustice and prejudice.

Miss Maudie is another character who exhibits personal courage in the face of injustice, through her selfless and fair personality. In the novel, Ms Maudie acts as a moral yardstick. While most of the white people in Maycomb think lowly of black people in their society, Miss Maudie had a conflicting view that is similar to Atticus’. This is reflected in her support for Atticus in the defence of Tom Robinson and how she teaches the children about moral justice. “Well, we’re making a step – it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step,’ (Chapter 22 p222) clearly shows her determination in taking more steps to fight injustice in the community. As well as this, it is also clear that she respects Boo Radley, shown through when she says "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." (Chapter 5 pg48). As well as displaying courage for injustice, Miss Maudie also displays personal courage when she looks positively at the burning of her house in a fire. She refuses to feel sorry for herself, and instead lets her loss become an opportunity for better things to come such as more room for her azaleas to grow. This spiritual courage becomes a learning curve for Scout and the responder, showing that even though she is only a lady, she still stands up for what she believes in. Arthur Radley, although secluded in society, overcomes prejudice and his fear of being judged by society and saves Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell. Arthur Radley was isolated from human interaction after his childhood by the cruelties of his father, subsequently giving him a mysteriously negative image. Rumours circulate throughout Maycomb about how Boo “dined on raw squirrels” [Ch2, pg19] and “driving scissors into his parent’s legs” [Ch2, Pg18]. The Finch children along with Dill are curious about his identity, haunting him and even playing a role-playing game about him. However, he still reaches out to the children by giving them dolls and sewing up Jem’s pants when he knew Jem would be in trouble if Atticus found out. When Bob Ewell attacks the Finch children, Boo bravely overcomes his years of introversion and saves their lives. By doing so, he has broken free after years of social and physical isolation and injustice and clearly exhibits personal courage. Even though the children have haunted him by continually trying to attract him out of his house, he saves them, risking his own life in the process. This is similar to the way in which Atticus risks his own life to defend Tom Robinson against the lynch mob. As Scout and Jem mature into young teenagers and gain new perceptions of courage, the responder is also able to take away from the novel. Atticus teaches the children that courage is not only about being brave but also about standing up for what he believes in, which is the fact that everybody is equal and free from prejudice. Miss Maudie subscribes to Atticus’ beliefs, and publicly demonstrates her views despite not being a lawyer or physically strong. Boo Radley, an isolated figure, gathers the courage to step out of his comfort zone and save the Finch children similar to the why Atticus protects Tom Robinson from a lynch mob. Through the novel, personal courage in the face of justice and prejudice has been explored through an interrelation of various moral lessons in which the responder is able to reflect upon. In the contemporary society, courage has been stereotyped in a different manner to how it is presented in the book. Courage of the modern day is about taking initiative to doing what is necessary to be done. Prejudice remains as an apparent issue in society even until today, probably signifying the link between personal courage and prejudice. If personal courage in moral senses were promoted more, would prejudice and injustice still exist in our society?

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