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Courage In To Kill A Mockingbird, By Harper Lee

1205 words - 5 pages

Courage exists in several forms in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. As defined by Atticus Finch, real courage "…when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what” (149). The novel explores the how this real courage can be shown in different ways through the lives of many characters in Maycomb, particularly, Tom Robinson, Mrs. Dubose, and Atticus. Their courage is evident through their lifestyle, actions, and beliefs.
One of the characters who show real courage is Tom Robinson. Being an African-American and living a generally prejudiced town like Maycomb, Tom was already licked from the start. Tom was allegedly accused of raping a white person and as Atticus says, “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins” (295). During his trial, Tom could have lied about his reasoning for helping Mayella, to keep himself from getting into more trouble but instead he showed real courage by revealing the real reason behind his actions: “I felt sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ‘em” (264). Since Jim Crow laws were active in Maycomb, Tom’s answer was seen as a terrible mistake: “Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson’s answer” (264). It showed that he, being a black person, thought he was better off than a white person. Tom also had real courage to go and help Mayella out in the first place; he didn’t have to, and by doing it he was putting himself to risk; any bystander could have gotten the wrong idea. However, he helped her anyways out of sheer goodwill. Another act of courage Tom did was when he tried to escape prison by running over the fence. He was licked from the start because he only had one good arm and was against guards with weapons, but he attempted it anyways because, in his mind, it was the right thing to do. Despite his race and condition, by helping Mayella with favors, giving an honest testimony, and trying to escape prison, Tom Robinson exhibits real courage.
Mrs. Dubose demonstrates an astounding amount of courage in achieving independence from her morphine addiction. Atticus revealed Mrs. Dubose’s last wish to Jem as he explains the courageous task she had carried out: she wanted to “leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody” (148). As a punishment for destroying her camellia bushes, Jem Finch has to read to her for a month until her alarm clock goes off, or until dismissed. The reason behind this peculiar punishment was later revealed by Atticus that she was a morphine addict and that Jem’s daily readings “may have been some kind of distraction” (148) to keep her off the morphine for longer periods of time. Mrs. Dubose was old, sick, and already dying: “her face was the color of a dirty pillowcase”, with “old-age liver spots dotting her cheeks” (142) and “Dr. Reynolds told her she had only a few months left” (147-148). On top of that, her withdrawal symptoms were “horrible” according to Scout:...

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