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Courage In To Kill A Mockingbird Essay

, Research Paper


Harper Lee based many characters from her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, on important people in her own life. Her father, a southern lawyer, served as a model for Atticus Finch. Her older sister shared many of the same reclusive qualities as Boo Radley. It can be understood that these people in Lee s life were only foundations for the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird in view of the abundance of courageousness found in the novel. It would be very difficult to conceive that real people were actually as courageous as Atticus and Boo. To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel that Lee only regarded as a simple love story, is much more than that. This American classic incorporates powerful themes, one of which is courage. Throughout the novel, Atticus Finch is the most prominent figure of courage, displaying his bravery in nearly the entire length of the novel. Atticus black client that is accused of rape, Tom Robinson, also portrays courage in his composure and disposition. Though only appearing in flesh once, Boo Radley exhibits much courage with his valiant acts. These three major characters show tremendous courageousness from what they do and what they don t do and they teach each other the true meaning of word.

Atticus Finch, the central figure of the plot, is the most noble and courageous character and this is easily seen through his actions. His stance against the townsfolk s prejudice beliefs is a major reason for why he is the portrait of courageousness. Atticus puts all his heart into defending Tom Robinson even though everyone in Maycomb is against Tom because he is black. The citizens of Maycomb carry their disapproval of Atticus into verbal scorn and extreme actions. Despite this, Atticus goes on because he recognizes Tom Robinson s innocence and he has deeply rooted values of what is right and wrong. His understanding that racism is wrong during the 1930 s in a small town in Alabama and his willingness to go against the consensus of the people shows his genuine courageousness. Atticus stands behind what he truly believes and takes the next step by also instilling his morals in his children, Jem and Scout. Because he shares his ethics with his children, he prevents outsiders from manipulating them. Outsiders such as Cecil Jacobs, Francis, and Mrs. Dubose convey their disapproval of Atticus towards Jem and Scout, who learn to hold their heads high and maintain the same courage they see in Atticus.

Almost all the citizens of Maycomb resent Atticus for his position on racial issues yet they still have respect for him because they always count on Atticus to muster up courage to do Maycomb s dirty work. This is best portrayed from the incident when Tim Johnson, a rabid dog, is loose on the streets. Take him, Mr. Finch, says Heck Tate, the police chief, as refers to Tim Johnson. Heck, afraid to shoot the rabid dog, wishes to hand the gun and thus the responsibility to a hesitant Atticus Finch. Mr. Tate justifies his stance by saying that this is a one-shot job because the Radley house will be hit if his own marksmanship is off and he knows Atticus was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time. Atticus doesn t believe in shooting anymore but he realizes that Heck Tate is right and that he must take the responsibility. He successfully shoots Tim Johnson in one shot after a refrain from shooting a firearm for more than thirty years. This responsibility is very heavy and difficult to bear, but Atticus understands and fulfills his role of doing the dirty work because he has the courage to do so. He bears this responsibility throughout the novel and he does not change much as he always upholds his values and bravery. He is not afraid to stand in front of the Maycomb County jail and protect Tom Robinson from a lynching mob because Atticus always does his best to do what s right. Atticus recognizes that it is his duty to protect Tom Robinson, so that is what he does. He won t let the Old Sarum bunch kill Tom, so he doesn t hesitate to gather his courage and do what he s supposed to do. When others accost him, he keeps his composure and always acts like a gentleman. After a disgruntled Bob Ewell spits in his face and makes threats, Atticus keeps his composure and does not let Bob Ewell get under his skin. He understands that he has more class than Mr. Ewell and if he did something to retaliate, he would lower himself to Bob s standards and become a coward. The citizens of Maycomb realize these qualities of Atticus, either consciously or unconsciously, and therefore they have respect for him. Because they respect him, the townfolk reelect him to his position as a county attorney so he can continue his role in doing what others fear to do.

Mr. Finch isn t the only reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel that well portrays people and their acts of courage. Tom Robinson, a victimized black man, also upholds much bravery and valiancy. Tom Robinson is the ultimate victim in the novel. When Tom tries to be a good neighbor to Mayella Ewell, he is rewarded with a rape trial and consequently death. He shows much courage and integrity to help out Mayella, who has absolutely no friends and has never been respected by anyone. When she calls Tom to come inside the Ewell property and help her fix the door, Tom does so, seeing that Mayella never has anyone to help her. The door doesn t seem to be broken to Tom and as he leaves, Mayella asks him to take a box down for her on top of another chiffarobe. When Tom reaches to do so, Mayella grabs him around the legs and hugs him. She wants to kiss Tom, who happens to be terrified. When Bob Ewell comes in the door and sees this, Tom runs in fear and the Ewells fabricate a story in an attempt to become heroes after they win in court. Tom Robinson shows great courage to even go to help Mayella. Tom s good nature makes him want to help Mayella because he has pity for her, even though she is white and he is black. The only thing that keeps the Ewells above Tom is their skin color. Tom unconsciously realizes this and refuses to take money for his services to Mayella. He has a hard time getting by with the money he currently makes, but he won t take Mayella s money because the Ewells survive on welfare. After Tom is accused of rape for helping Mayella, he shows more courage in his testimony at the trial. During Mr. Gilmer s cross-examination, Tom finally says that he just tried to help because he felt sorry for Mayella. The audience is stirred considerably because they cannot possibly conceive a black person feeling sorry for a white person. In their minds, when Tom says he felt sorry for Mayella, he is putting himself above her, and a black could never be above a white person, no matter what the situation is. Although Tom may be talking out of his stream of consciousness, telling the truthful facts and his true opinion shows a lot of courage. Being a black man and having to testify his word against a white woman s word, it takes real courage to tell everyone what really happened, especially in this case because the truth is that Mayella instigated the situation on Tom. The town of Maycomb could not possibly believe a white woman did what Mayella did to a black man. Their racist values make this absolutely unfathomable, so Tom has tremendous courage because he simply told what happened and mentioned his truthful opinion.

A third profile in courage is that of Boo Radley. He only appears at the very end of the novel in displaying his ultimate act of courage, but he also shows courage in other parts of the book when he doesn t appear. In the beginning of the story, Jem and Scout are infatuated with the mysteriousness of Boo Radley. Boo, being secluded in his home, responds to the children s infatuation by leaving them gifts in the knothole of an oak tree. He befriends Jem and Scout despite the fact that they play games about him. This shows his courage because he is a recluse and would not like to go outside, but he does so anyway in order to befriend Jem and Scout. Also, putting the gifts in the knothole is against the wishes of Nathan Radley, his brother and paternal figure. Boo gathers courage to give gifts to the Finch children and only stops when the knothole is filled with cement by Nathan. Another event when Boo shows courage is when Miss Maudie s home catches fire. The fire forces the Finches to come out of their home and as Scout stands in the cold, she unknowingly receives a blanket to keep herself warm. She finds out that it was Boo Radley who gave her the blanket. Boo shows courage in this situation for the same reason that he was courageous when he gave Jem and Scout gifts. Boo is a recluse so he shows a substantial amount of courage when he simply goes outside his quarters. His bravery and kind nature makes him desire to help his friend, Scout, and that qualifies as a courageous act, even though if it is small.

The first two acts of bravery that Boo Radley show was without his actual appearance in the novel. The third act of courage is his greatest as he finally appears in the book. As Jem and Scout walk home at night from the school pageant, Bob Ewell attacks them. Boo comes out of his home and doesn t hesitate to risk his life against a bigger Bob Ewell in order to save the lives of the Finch children. Scout later describes Boo as thin, so the reader knows he is weak physically, but Boo still goes out into the night to face Bob Ewell, who has a knife, and manages to kill Bob so Jem and Scout can be protected. Boo shows an immense amount of courage to do this but he cares about Jem and Scout so he was willing put his own life on the line to save them. He also has to gather the courage to go outside for a sizable amount of time. He has never been in front of Scout and it must be extremely difficult for him to changes his ways after such a long time of being reclusive. Boo Radley only wishes to befriend the Finch children, but in essence, he is actually a surrogate father figure because of he has so much compassion towards Jem and Scout. By his compassionate acts of courage, he teaches them to judge people by their actions and not by rumors they hear.

As defined by The American Heritage Dictionary, it can be easily recognized that To Kill a Mockingbird is indeed a novel displaying the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution at its best as characters teach each other what courage truly is. Atticus upholds his integrity and bravery throughout the novel. He is a symbol of everything right in society. Tom, a very courageous man, is the greatest mockingbird of all. He is killed physically by a prison guard, but in essence, he is killed by the town of Maycomb. Boo, another mockingbird, is viciously attacked for being a recluse, yet he still shows bravery and courage when necessary. Today, it would be hard to find characters that could match the quality of mind of Atticus. It would be equally difficult to find someone that could match the genuine disposition of Tom or the valiance of Boo. Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley all demonstrate magnificent courage. Harper Lee s decision to show an abundance of courage in To Kill a Mockingbird should set an example for all people to see what they should strive for in life. Courage is indeed something that the world needs more of. If only there were only more people like Atticus, Tom, and Boo, it would perhaps teach more people the true meaning of the courage.

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