Essay on Courage. How Do You Define Courage - To Kill a Mockingbird

“It is easy to stand with the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone.”- Mahatma Gandhi

How do you define courage? Hollywood, as usual, tends to get it wrong. Courage is not the bravado gun-slinging action ‘hero’ but rather a person who is the best version of themselves. Many people, including Jem and Scout, mix up courage with strength. By definition Courage is having strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s the ability to act on one's beliefs despite danger or disapproval. There are multiple prime examples of courage in "To Kill a Mockingbird". Through the actions of an old woman who overcomes her drug addiction, not because it is easy but because she wants to die free, and by Atticus Finch, a lawyer who dares to defy the immoral standards of society when he defends an African American man on trial for the rape of a young white woman. 

In the text, the author, Harper Lee shows that courage can be found in places that you least expect it. Mrs Dubose was courageous despite her attitudes and ideals. She always stayed true to her beliefs whatever the consequences. She was able to rid herself of her addiction to morphine. In doing so she inspired Atticus to call her “the bravest person he ever met”. Mrs Dubose will not always be seen as a good person, but she was brave. She gave up so much to fight the good fight. Atticus tells his children “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.You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” Mrs Dubose inspired and embodied this quote. She won, she beat her addiction, despite all the odds being stacked against her, through sheer willpower and determination. She chose pain and suffering to die free. That’s courage. 

Another example of courage is Atticus' fight for Tom Robinson's life. He is wise enough to know that the prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination of white America at the time would never allow justice to be done, but at the same time, he is determined that the truth be told, so those who convict Tom Robinson will be aware that they are killing an innocent man. So that the town will know what really happened. He pushes through the harm that is done to his reputation, his ‘dignity’, his family and his resources. He knows that he is fighting a losing battle. "Atticus, are we going to win it?"

"No, honey."

"Then why"

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said. He knows that the damage to his reputation as a lawyer is irreparable, yet he still follows his heart. That’s courage.

These examples of courage show that it is a clear theme throughout the first half of the novel. Mrs Dubose,  and Atticus Finch are the author's way of showing that courage can be found in the most unusual places. Harper Lee demonstrates that you don’t have to be a soldier, a doctor, a pilot to be a hero, to be brave or to be courageous. Courage can come from anywhere, from anyone. As Atticus said, courage is not a man (or woman) 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.”



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