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To Kill a Mockingbird - Courage
I think that there are four main themes in the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. These being; Benevolence; Predujice; Innocence; and most of all, courage. I believe that courage definitely plays a major role as a theme in scenes througout this novel. For a younger child though, like Scout, courage is most often associated with some type of physical act, which involves danger. It is difficult for younger children to grasp the concept that greater courage is most often required in other aspects of life. Scout learns that the greatest courage can be found in a situation where a person knows that they are going to lose, yet still continues to fight the battle.
"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." Chapter 11, Page 124.
Harper Lee portrays the idea of courage by first having Scout observe her father perform a physical act of courage when he shoots the mad dog. Although Atticus didn't consider the act very courageous and was completely uninterested in proving anyhting to his children, Jem and Scout were proud of, and impressed by, his courage in such a precarious situation. But shooting something wasn't really Atticus' idea of courage. He viewed courage on more of an intellectual leve, as a moral thing, not as something that can be proved with a weapon.
Scout and Jem then encounter the seemingly vindictiveness of Mrs Dubose.
"Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" Chapter 11, Page 113
When Mrs Dubose bad-mouthed Atticus, Jem decided that the bet way to setle things was to ruin Mrs Dubose's camellias. After Atticus learned of this stunt, Jem was made to read to her every afternoon, for a month. Mrs Dubose was a very sick lady, and had morphine to ease her pain. It wasn't until after Mrs Dubose passed away that Atticus explained to Jem and Scout how courageous the lady was because she knew that she was dying but was still determined to die free of the morphine.
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The greatest demonstration of courage of all though, is Atticus' fight for Tom Robinson's life. He is wise enough to know that the predujices of people will never allow justice to be done, but at the same time, he is determined that the truth be told so that those who convict Tom Robinson will be aware that they are convicting an innocent man. Just like Mrs Dubose, Atticus knew that he could never win the case, but he tried anyway.
"This case, Tom Robinson's case, is something that goes to the essence
of a man's conscience - Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if
I didn't try to help that man." Chapter 11, Page 116.
This realisation forces Scout to stop fighting with her fists and try to overcome opposing opinions with her head, rather than with physical violence.