How does Harper Lee show the theme of courage in this novel?
Courage is defined as the ability to do something which frightens you or as Atticus puts it “you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway”. This fear may come from many different places, whether it is the obvious fear of a physical thing or a different yet just as credible view of fear in which you may be frightened that you will not be able to do what you believe is right, whatever the fear may be, being able to carry on regardless is showing courage. Harper Lee shows throughout the novel that courage is not always the public and open acts that people may associate with courage, such as “a man with a gun in his hand”. She shows how courage often comes in forms that are unexpected and just because they may be more private acts of courage it does not mean that they should be regarded as any less courageous.
Harper Lee shows through the character of Mrs Dubose that although determination may not be the most obvious form of courage it is a form that should be highly commended. She also shows that courage can come from the most unexpected places by describing Mrs Dubose in such a way that the reader dislikes the character so when it is revealed how courageous she has been, the two contrast each other, ensuring the courage has a larger impact. Mrs Dubose was “vicious” and the children “hated her”, not the usual depiction of a courageous woman, however this is what makes Mrs Dubose so important as this image of a horrific woman is built up inside the head of the reader by the repeated references to her awful behaviour. Through this portrayal, Mrs Dubose becomes one of the last characters expected to have courage and yet she is, behind the scenes, silently courageous. Mrs Dubose wanted to “leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody” but was unable to do this without overcoming her morphine addiction. Despite being “in so much agony” whilst weaning herself off the morphine, she managed to beat the addiction and die according to her wishes. Her mental courage and determination is something to be admired, as Atticus tries to show Jem and Scout. She could have died a morphine addict, which would have been the easy option to choose and yet she didn’t. She knew she was “licked” before she made the decision, she knew it was going to be difficult yet she still carried on despite the immense pain she was in at certain points. She could easily have given up at those points when she was in unbearable pain but she didn’t, she “saw it through no matter what”. That is courage. Although her personality may have left something to desire it is undeniable that she showed tremendous courage in beating the addiction. This is how Harper Lee wanted to show courage, it’s not always the typical, selfless heroes that show courage, no matter what your perception of a person may be, they always have the ability to surprise you.
Atticus is used to show courage throughout the novel. He is not afraid to show that he has opposing views to all the people around him despite knowing the potential consequences. He represents Tom Robinson which is very controversial amongst many other residents of Maycomb, as he is a black man accused of raping a white woman and these people think that Atticus should not be representing Tom Robinson because of the colour of skin. Prejudiced views. However this did not stop Atticus from representing this man, despite the aggressively opposing views of others. Atticus represents Tom Robinson because he feels that “if I (he) didn’t I (he) couldn’t hold my (his) head up in town” as this case “affects him personally”. This is because of the passion in his views and the courage he has to stand by his views no matter what. He knows that there is a very slim chance that he will win the case but he doesn’t care because he wants the black community to know that he does not want them to be discriminated against, so…