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To Kill A Mockingbird Essays: Great Courage

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Courage in To Kill A Mockingbird

 

Courage is shown within the characters of To Kill A Mockingbird in several situations.  The characters are challenged to face danger or pain without fear.  The courage they display gives them strength and deepens their self-understanding as the novel progresses.

 

  Early in the novel, Scout illustrates the courage she embodies.  On her first day of school, Scout acts as an ambassador for the entire class.  She takes the duty of informing Miss Caroline of Walter Cunningham's situation.  Miss Caroline had just scolded Scout for her ability to read, however, Scout still feels the classes' need for leadership.  Most children at her age would fear speaking to the teacher is such a bold fashion.  Scout shows advanced maturity for her age, and this allows her to successfully act upon her courage, rather than suppressing its existence.  Walter Cunningham, himself, was shy and fearful of speaking to the teacher.  Scout over came the petty fears that plagued the remainder of the class, and acted out of Walter's best interest.  Her courage spoke in Walter's absence, and inability to express his monetary situation.

 

Jem is faced with a courageous situation in regards to the Radley house.  His courage stems from fear of receiving a whipping from Atticus, and more important, his disapproval.  Jem is willing to risk his life in order to save his father from showing disappointment.  The threat of Mr. Radley waiting for the intruder with his gun instils fear within Jem.  However, Jem overcomes this fear in order to sustain Atticus' faith.  Being the only and eldest son places pressure upon Jem to set an example and implant pride within his father.  The possibility of being shot is an obstacle Jem must overcome with courage.  A courage, which will save him from a bad decision.

 

A significant representation of courage is seen within Atticus.  Within To Kill A Mockingbird Atticus speaks of the Tom Robinson trial as a trial all lawyers fear.  He must face a court case that will have a profound personal effect upon himself and his family.  Atticus summons the courage to recognize that there is a need for justice and that it is his duty to achieve this.  Maycomb is a town tainted with stereotypes and racism.  Atticus has the courage to overcome the fear of other peoples' dislike.  He must face the fear of straining the lives of his two young children and family name.  The courage Atticus embodies stems from his "satisfactory" character.  Atticus is righteous and unable to turn his back on those who truly rely upon his ability to show empathy.  He overcomes the heartless comments of those around them, to see the necessity of his involvement.

 

Courage within Atticus is not restrained to his professional life, but also evident in his family life.  It is hard for Atticus to raise his children without a wife, and to face the constant family ridicule.  At one point the reader is convinced Atticus has lost his courage, and has succumbed to the clutched of Aunt Alexandra, her opinions.  However, as the scene progresses the reader is further exposed to the courage of Atticus and his decision to withdraw the false statements made to his children.  A single father, he does not look to others to gather his parenting skills.  Atticus has the courage to do what is morally righteous, and to allow Scout and Jem to be themselves.

 

Calpurnia must face the opinions of her fellow men, when she takes the Finch children with her to church.  She risks receiving disapproval from her own people.  Calpurnia is courageous in her effort to weave the two lives she lives, into one.  The reader receives the impression that Calpurnia isolates the white and black aspects of her life.  This demonstrates the severity of the risk she takes.  When one member of the congregation disagrees with Calpurnia's guests, Calpurnia gathers the courage to protect the Finch's.  At the risk of alienation she recognizes the morality that the Finch's show towards people of all colours and that they deserve to be welcomed by those their father continually supports.  The church community plays a very important role in Calpurnia's life.  The church's members are her neighbours and friends.  Her courage is illuminated by what she risked for the Finch's.

The largest example of courage is displayed within the life of Mrs. Dubose.  She was a sick old woman, waiting for death.  However, she had one more goal to achieve before her life came to an end. She wished to free herself of a morphine addiction.  Mrs. Dubose displayed courage in a situation where most people would surrender to the drug.  She was also courageous in the secrecy she shrouded her addiction in.  No one was aware that the drug caused her mean spells.  She chose not to burden anyone with her problems.  Mrs. Dubose did not fear death, but challenged death through her perseverance to leave this world free of addiction.  It was only after Mrs. Dubose's passing did the people she affected become aware of her courage.  She surprised those around her, who found it far to easy to pass her off as a sick, old lady.  She remained strong in spirit and belief.

 

Within the novel Atticus defines courage as "... 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." (112).  Within all the examples of courage there is not a situation when the courage did not stem from a need within the character.  Courage is the inner desire to succeed and to do what is righteous, no matter what humiliation or consequences that plague you because of your decision.  Scout, Jem, Atticus, Calpurnia and Mrs. Dubose understood the risks they faced but continued with their actions because it was moral.  They did not all enter their personal situation expecting to win.  Scout still faced further scolding from Miss Caroline.  Jem eventually told his father what he had done to the Radley's.  There were winners and losers but they do not regret the courage they showed for the sake of good intentions. 

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