Courage in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Length: 837 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
To Kill a Mockingbird - Courage
"Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what" According to Atticus Finch, an honest lawyer in Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. "Real courage" is when you fight for what is right regardless of whether you win or lose. Atticus fits into this definition of what "real courage" is and demonstrates it several times throughout the novel.
"The only thing we've got is a black man's word against the Ewells'. The evidence boils down to you-did-I-didn't. The jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells,'" Atticus solemnly explains this to his brother. First of all, Atticus demonstrates courage when he undertakes the task of defending Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of rape. Atticus knows he won't win the case and like Mrs. Dubose in her battle against morphine, he is "licked" before he begins. Nevertheless, Atticus knows that Tom is innocent and that he must fight for him, since no one else will. Atticus's strong sense of morality and justice motivates him to defend Tom with vigor and determination, giving it all he's got with one mission in mind. He wants the people of Maycomb town, whether they believe it or not, to hear the truth about Tom, "That boy might go to the chair, but he's not going till the truth's told"
Furthermore, Atticus showed true bravery when he went against Maycomb, a generally prejudice town, in order to defend Tom. He understood that taking the case would make him an object of scorn and ridicule. That no one would forgive him for believing in a black man's word rather than a white man's. Even his own sister expresses disapproval of his decision, practically telling him he was bringing disgrace on the family. But, no matter how much his reputation suffered, he did not change his mind. Standing up for his convictions was more important then what people thought about him..
Moreover, Atticus manifested courage when he went to the jailhouse to protect Tom from a lynch mob.
Without thinking it twice he rushed to Tom's aid. He went with the knowledge that if a mob did gather he would be greatly outnumbered and could get badly beaten. Still, he went determined to shield Tom from anything that could harm him, with no concern about his own welfare.
Last, but not least, Atticus showed courage when he went along with Heck Tate lie about what really happened the night Bob Ewell was found stabbed to death. Atticus put his life and career in the line. He knew, as an officer of the court, that withholding information from an investigation could have gotten him disbarred or thrown in jail. Nonetheless, like many times before, doing what was right and fair prevailed in Atticus's way of thinking.
In addition, Atticus went against his moral code and principles he had always upheld before, especially in the Tom Robinson trial. Now, Atticus is faced with the decision of abiding by the law or breaking it in order to do the right thing. He knew that incarcerating a man, as withdrawn and solitary as Arthur would have been unforgivable. Especially, after Arthur had performed a great deed by saving his children's life. He knew that exposing him would be an awful way of repaying him; it would have been like "shooting a mockingbird." So, Atticus chose to protect Boo from the public eye rather than abide by the law and his "honest" ways he was so accustomed to follow. That takes courage!
In conclusion, Atticus shows praiseworthy courage and exemplary behavior, in many instances, throughout the story. Not by winning brawl fights or killing, but by standing up for what he believed in a civilized but determined fashion. His strongest motivation, however, were his kids. He wanted to be a good example to his kids and instill in them a strong sense of moral values. One time he was asked by Scout why he had taken a case he knew he wasn't going to win and he responded by saying, "For a number of reasons. 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." In other words, he wouldn't have the face to preach to his kids about justice and standing up for what one believes when he himself had not stood for what he believed in. But, most of all he does it to uphold his self-worth. He wants to know that there's no reason for him to bend his head and shy away when he's walking down the streets. He wants to live without regrets, and to him that's the best way to live life.