?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.? (p. 112) Spoken by Atticus to his children, this quote is excerpted from the popular yet classic novel written by Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird. A single, widowed father, Atticus Finch strives to raise his two children with good morals in a southern town during the 1930?s, where prejudice lurks behind every corner. Yet, amid the racism are acts of courage, seen as bravery and strength through the eyes of different people. Atticus, Mrs. Dubose, and the children are the main ones behind these accomplishments, in a small town by the name of Maycomb, where this story takes place.
Mrs. Dubose, a sick, old lady may not be one who?s courage shows on her exterior. This woman often criticized Jem and Scout and other children who passed the porch where she was confined. Mrs. Dubose suffered as a morphine-addict, whose pain-killers often led her to say nasty things to the children about anything she could think up, mostly about their father being a ?nigger-lover?. She would also tell Scout that she shouldn?t be wearing overalls, and should dress like a lady. Her fits could be described as reaching out for attention, and fighting against the sickness that was slowly breaking down her system,however; it was also the medicine that put her in such pain and caused her to strike out at others. Despite this, Atticus believed her to be a wonderful lady, who chose ?to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody.?. He treated her wonderfully, which Scout thought was very brave! Mrs. Dubose wanted to die free, without being in debt to anyone. This she did, and even gave Jem a final parting gift after he had tried to ruin her flower garden in his blind rage. Mrs. Dubose held her own opinions, and according to these, she died without owing anything to anyone. To Atticus she was- ?the bravest person I ever knew?. This could show someone that sometimes courage lies within yourself, in a place where physical strength is not a factor, and where mental strength is what proves to be the real fearlessness that one should strive for.
The children, Jem, Scout, and their friend Dill, all work towards fortitude in different means than one would expect from an adult, but in ways very typical for a child. All three of them are in fear and awe of a certain man who they do not understand, by the name of Boo Radley. Boo, or Arthur, Radley lived in a house on the same street as Scout and Jem, but had not been seen for many years, and therefore was one of the main players in the rumors that circulated Maycomb. In result of the horrible stories describing Boo as a monster, the children feared the Radley House. Courage in the eyes of the young children was running up to slap the house (As Jem was dared to do), or peeking in the windows (also a deed of Jem), trying to catch a glimpse of the ?malevolent phantom?(p.13). Although these small acts seem like silliness to most who have grown out of childhood, the children saw bravery as attempting to do or face frightening matters. However, after the children had grown out of sneaking around the Radley house, and trying to deliver notes to Boo, they began to face things that they had never seen, such as cruel schoolchildren and even crueler adults. While they may grow out of dares to do ?scary? things, courage in one man (or child?s) eye is different than in another man?s (or child?s), and though courage may grow to reach different levels, even the smallest acts can be considered acts of intrepidness.
The words and actions of Atticus Finch prove to be truly courageous. A man who has seen more of the world than most of the people of Maycomb combined, Atticus struggles against the close-minded views of the small southern town. An example of his brave deeds could be either physical or psychological,furthermore; two of his main doings are connected and entwined internally within the plot. The ?mad-dog incident? occurred when a sick, possibly rabid dog, was spotted wandering aimlessly through Maycomb. Heck Tate, the sheriff, requested that Atticus be the one to do away with the animal. This shocks the children, when they soon learn that although Atticus is known to have the best shot with a gun in town, he chooses not to practice or show off his talent. As Miss Maudie, a close neighbor, states ?I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn?t shoot till he had to, and he had to today.? Thus, Atticus does have the courage to do away with the creature in one shot, after many years without practice. Another deed that Atticus takes on is to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, in a trial against a white man, Bob Ewell, who claims Tom raped his daughter. One would think that the evidence proves Tom?s innocence, furthermore; the Ewell family have a horrible reputation, and live like animals, on the outskirts of town. However; this case isn?t as simple as it seems, for although Mr. Ewell isn?t respected, he still remains on a higher level than the black population, because of the segregated views of the white community. Atticus knows that this will be a difficult trial, and that the chances of winning are many against one, yet he is a respected lawyer, and will defend people of any colour. ?I?m simply defending a Negro-?(p.75) Scout relates the trial to the dog incident by saying it was ?like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty.?(p. ) This points out to the reader that while Atticus knew he was not going to win the trial, he went through with it, and tried his hardest, giving it all that he had; moreover, proving his statement to try one?s hardest even if one knows that he/she has been defeated long before he/she begins.
This novel contained many deep meanings, and held much symbolism, courage being one of the main points. Courage exists somewhere in anyone?s heart, and sometimes the toughest times, or hardest moments are what one needs to bring out their inner valor. Atticus chose to end his hunting, and gun work, however the ?mad-dog incident? led to him needing his old talent. Furthermore, sometimes courage may not show on the outside, but is really inside, as shown by Mrs. Dubose?s harsh words, but strong heart and character. One would think that Harper Lee meant to create Atticus as the hero of the story, a man fighting for his morals during a hard time. However, within the novel are many lessons of strength and bravery, internal and external, proving that sometimes, courage lies within, and that this courage is often the most strong.