To Kill a Mockingbird: Theme of Courage Essay

What is courage? Is courage somebody charging headlong into a fight to save someone? Is courage standing up for one’s beliefs in front of one’s peers? Or is courage a different entity altogether? Harper Lee explores the theme of courage in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” through the actions of Mrs. Dubose, Atticus Finch, and Boo Radley. To describe Mrs. Dubose one would have to think of the most vile, crotchety, and all-around evil old woman they knew, and double that. Although she might have been a rude woman Mrs. Dubose had that special thing that is called courage.

As explained by Atticus, “I wanted you to see something about her-I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do” (Lee 93). Mrs. Dubose had been a morphine addict for a while and wanted to die a free woman. She probably knew that she might not accomplish this, but she tried anyways. In this case, one of the very few, she actually succeeded.

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Sometimes though, courage is something very different than beating an addiction even though you probably can’t. Some may think that courage is only a momentary thing, something that only happens in the thick of some fight or war, but courage is something that only certain people have. That courage may not be the same type of courage as the courage a soldier has, it may not be the same courage that a little old lady has, but it is courage none-the-less. This kind of courage is demonstrated by people like Atticus Finch. When a controversial case came up, and he was assigned to it, he defended the man accused of a horrible crime.

Atticus tried to explain to his daughter why he was defending the man and came up with this, “For a number of reasons,’ said Atticus. ‘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'” (63). Atticus had pride in what he did, but it takes a certain kind of courage to be able to anything that will set someone in the eyes of the community negatively. Even if that means overcoming a fear to help someone you care for. Boo Radley was a shut-in.

He was a man who hadn’t gone outside for years, and probably had agoraphobia. A man, Bob Ewell, had attacked Atticus’s children, Jem and Scout, over the humiliation that Atticus had caused him in court and Boo had stepped out of the life he knew to save these two children who otherwise had little chance of survival. He demonstrated that courage can be something as simple as overcoming your fear to help those in need, even if helping the needy means commiting a crime: “I may not be much, Mr. finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife.

Good night, sir. ” Mr. Tate stamped off the porch and strode across the front yard. His car door slammed and he drove away. Atticus sat looking at the floor for a long time. Finally he raised his head. “Scout,” he said, ” Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand? Atticus looked like he needed cheering up. I ran to him and hugged him and kissed him with all my might. “Yes sir, I understand,” I reassured him. “Mr. Tate was right. ” Atticus disengaged himself and looked at me. “What do you mean? ” “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it? Atticus put his face in my hair and rubbed it. When he got up and walked across the porch into the shadows, his youthful step had returned. Before he went inside the house, he stopped in front of Boo Radley. “Thank you for my children, Arthur,” he said. (230) Boo had a kind of courage that not very many had, or even understand, for that matter. He had the courage to do what he thought was right, no matter what stood in his way, be it a man, a fear, or even the law. The courage to overcome something that has plagued one’s self for many years.

The courage to stand up for one’s morals, even in the face of humiliation. The courage to stand up for what one believes in, no matter what stands in the way. All these are types of courage, but none of them really answer the question that is, “What is courage? ” This question will probably go on forever as being one of life’s little paradox’s, always being answered but never being proved. That is because the true answer to the question is an ever changing thought that resides within every person who has ever done anything in the entire history of the world.

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