Courage is standing up or fighting for what one believes in, even when the odds are against that courageous individual. Courage is one of the most significant themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. In the novel, Harper Lee shows both types of courage using the characters throughout the book, as well as illustrating her own way of writing this novel to demonstrate all characteristics of courage. She shows actions taken by characters in a courageous act even when Lee makes it clear to the reader that the character has no chance of winning. She also shows the other type of courage, which is standing up for what one believes in and standing up for what they think is right, even when others might threaten that believer and talk badly towards them because of their opinion.
The first type of courage that Lee demonstrates within her novel, is when Atticus Finch accepts the arrangement of Tom Robinson’s case, knowing that he would most certainly not come out victorious. Trying to defend a blackman in a courthouse full of white and racist people was almost guaranteed the defendant coming out of that courthouse empty handed. Not only was this case an automatic defeat, but it was also risky and dangerous. During that particular period of time in the world, defending a black man like Tom Robinson made Finch’s family become a possible target for the town’s people to go at. Standing with a black man and accusing white folks as guilty for falsely accusing Tom Robinson would cause ruckus within the community and make certain people question their trust for them and make them want to threaten them or others that are close to them. The only reason Atticus takes this case is because he won’t take actions that go against his beliefs of what he thinks is right. The town’s people turn their anger towards Atticus for defending Tom Robinson, but with the hesitation that the testimonies showed during the court trial, any reasonable and sensible person could see that the Ewells’ testimonies were full of holes and lies, and could realize Tom didn’t commit the crime after all, pursuing him as innocent. The racial prejudices in the 1930s let most whites mentally judge this black man guilty. It takes courage for Atticus to do the right thing and stand up for this black man in a court full of white and racist people.
At the beginning of the novel, Jem shows that his idea of courage is just going over and touching the Radley house without getting caught. However, as the story progresses, he shows his courage by facing the mob and refusing to obey Atticus for the first time in his life because he believes that it is the right thing to stay with Atticus and make sure that he doesn’t get harmed or possibly killed. “In the midst of this strange assembly, Atticus stood trying to make Jem mind him. ‘I ain’t going,’ was his steady answer,” (204). Jem stood up for what he believed to be right, which was protecting Atticus and making sure he didn’t get hurt, which is courageous.
Alone with Atticus and Jem, few female characters showed their courage in the novel, but one did show courage in a very great way. It’s not a physical kind of courage like facing down a mad dog and killing it in one shot. Harper Lee did a great job to show the mental courage through Mrs. Dubose’s character. This rude, prejudiced old lady, who is addicted to morphine, showed great courage by succeeding in stopping her morphine addiction right before she died. “Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew,” (115). By saying this, Atticus shows that he wanted to show Jem what courage really is without having a gun in your hand and shooting at something that could be dangerous. “I wanted you to see something about her. 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,” (115). Mrs. Dubose’s strong courage and perseverance got her through her strong addiction to morphine, which shows a great example of a courageous act. Unlike Mrs. Dubose, Miss Maudie has her own inner strength. Stephanie Crawford is the neighborhood gossip throughout the novel. The majority of the information the children receive about Boo Radley at the beginning of the novel come from Miss Crawford. Miss Crawford claims that she knows Boo’s entire story. She tells them Boo’s family history and several stories that depict Boo Radley as an insane individual.
“Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did one do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while,”(60). This quote from Miss Maudie shows real courage because she wants to stop the fake gossip from Miss Stephanie, so she steps up and says something, which takes courage to do so. When Miss Stephanie tries to spread the tales, Miss Maudie rather uses her sharp tongue to fight Miss Stephanie back than to just refuse to listen. Miss Maudie has no fear of others’ gossip, she even talks about it just like a jock.
Furthermore, Harper Lee showed her own bravery by writing the novel. In the 1940s, there is no single person, group, or institution put civil rights on the national agenda. Challenging racial prejudice in the United States was a unsettingly undertaking. Harper Lee manifested her idea of courage when she was in college. She wrote short stories and other works about racial injustice, a rarely mentioned topic on such campuses at the time. Lee moved to New York City in 1950, and spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird. In her creation process, Lee had become so frustrated for a while. She tossed the manuscript out the window into the snow, and her agent made her retrieve it. Finally, the book was published on July 11, 1960, but the editorial team said that Lee could probably only sell several thousand copies. Moreover, in 1966, Lee wrote a letter in response to the attempts of a school board to ban To Kill a Mockingbird as “immoral literature.”
In To Kill a Mockingbird, courage is a prominent quality among the characters. Harper Lee used her own way to show the readers that courage is the strength in the face of pain, is the inner desire to do what is right. Whether it is doing something courageous because of what you believe in, or if you do something courageous without even knowing it, courage is usually defined as acting despite fear it is actually a much more complex attribute. Depending on the situation that an individual is actually in, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate courage in a number of different ways, whether that means taking a stand and speaking out against injustice or physically overcoming something that triggers a fearful response.