The Theme of Courage in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

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‘This report investigates the theme of courage in novel ‘to kill a mockingbird’ and examines it though the theme relation to the text. A brief report about the theme and discussion where courage is glorified in the book: characters, setting and plot. The author portrayal of the theme through, characters who are morally driven, setting in which racial decimations is presented and a plot that links to the theme.

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ authored by an American novelist Harper Lee issued in the 1960’s. It quickly became a huge successful going on to win a ‘Pulitzer Prize’ and have been categories as by many readers “ A very classic yet with a modern twist of American literature”. The plot, characters and setting have been insecurely constructed from the author’s personal reflection of her family, neighbors and occurrences near her hometown in the 1930’s at the age of ten.

The novel is well- known for its kind-heartedness and wittiness, whilst also dealing with serious topics in our society such as rape and racial discrimination. As a southern gothic novel and coming of age story, to kill a mocking bird has several themes that consist of it but the main is how courage is portrayed through the characters, plot and setting to assist the readers to develop historical knowledge of deep southern American society. Intellectuals have mentioned that Harper has also addressed issues such as human classification, sympathy, courage and gender roles in American society in the 1930’s. The Book is commonly taught at English- speaking schools because of it increasing popularity but educational movement has battled that the book should be removed from public school because it does not entirely explore black characters in the novel also some dark skinned readers obtain grasp of sense. Although it often insightful and reflective to many white readers.


Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28th the year 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, where she formed a close friendship with Truman Capote. She attends Huntingdon College in Montgomery in 1944 and graduated in 1945 and also went on to studied law at the University of Alabama in 1945 and graduated in 1949. Whilst in college she writer for the campus magazines as well as short stories and was involved with other projects about racial injustice a subject who was rarely discussed at the time. The year 1950, Harper moved to New York City to further her career as a writer, she got a job as a reservation booking clerk. Harper also began writing essays and short stories about her the town she grew up on and the people of the town. Praying that it would be published, lee showcased her writing the year 1957 to an agent and J.B. Lippincott advised her work, lee than quit her job with the help with her friends and family allowed her to write for years.


Harper Lee’s ‘To kill a mockingbird” exposes how courage can be shown several of ways and that even the uniformed indirect acts of courage could make a difference. Courage in telling the truth, pressured but yet sticking to what you believe, against society ways and courage in willingness to change.

The story takes place in Alabama during the ‘Great Depression’ narrated by the main character ‘Scout’ Jean Louis scout, a nine year old girl whose father is lawyer in a small weary town ‘Maycomb County’. Scout and Her Brother Jeremy befriend the neighbor’s nephew named Dill. The three children became captivated by ‘Boo Radley’ their neighbor and begin to make scheme on how to make him come out. Citizens of Maycomb are cautious not to talk about Boo and few have spotted him. Scout, Jem and Dill begin to forage on their imagination and make rumors of his appearance, the reasons why he still remains hidden and dreams of schemes to make him come out. Two summers pass by, Jeremy and Scout finds out that someone has been placing small gifts in the true near the Radley house. Several of times the secretive ‘Boo’ signal affection towards the children but their frustration he has never appeared once to them in person.

Atticus was selected by the court to take on a case involving a colored man by the name of Tom Robinson who has been accused of guilty for sexually abusing a white girl named May Ella Ewell, daughter belong to disreputable family and citizens of Maycomb county state them as “ Dirt ”. The Finch family was constantly attack by cruel comments from a very severely racist Maycomb because of Atticus decision to represent a colored man in court. But Atticus determines on doing so because his morality would not let him be otherwise. His knows that his client is innocent but it is highly unlikely that the racial prejudice jury would never consider the thought to believe inferior black man over a superior white woman. Even though of the facts, Atticus intentions are to expose the truth about racial discrimination in Maycomb County and inspire them to visualize promising of racial parity. Atticus did not want his children to attend the trial but they still do so, the take a set on the black balcony.

After the trial, Bob Ewell’s swears revenge on Atticus for exposing his family life and humiliating him to the public. He goes on a violent rampage, spitting Atticus on the street of Maycomb, attempts to break into the judge’s house and finally tries to murder Scout and Jeremy after a school Halloween pageant. Jeremy brings his arm whilst Bob attacks him in the darkness a mysterious man comes to their rescue, carries Jem back to home to safety later on Scout is shocked to discover it was ‘Boo’.

Sheriff arrives at the scene and discovered that Bob Ewell has infect have been murdered in darkness struggle. Sheriff tries to reason with Atticus about farsightedness and morals of holding young Jeremy & Boo Radley responsible for the murder of Bob Ewell. Atticus finally agrees to the claim that the Sheriff has accidently fell on his knife and killed himself. Boo asks Scout to walk him to his front porch, Scout agrees and gets over her fears and escort him home, she than wondered how she has fantasies about this day. As she was heading back home she than puts her in his point of view.


In society, men are often labeled to be brave, and are expected to display physical courage. Mr. Avery’ jeopardy his life to save furniture whilst the house is on fire, Atticus shooting the mad dog and Mr. Nathan Radley shooting at the ‘niggers’ are a few examples in which courage is thought extremely in Maycomb county. Jean Louis Finch ‘Scout’ is mindful of its importance. Only until afterwards Atticus ‘Skilled Shooting’ that Scout and Jeremy stopped doubting his masculinity. In Maycomb, a representation of strong man with a shot gun is prefect symbolism of courage in every man.

Despite the fact that southern American tradition idolize physical courage, Harper Lee give the impression that it is the moral courage be worthy to idolize. Throughout the book Harper Lee has showed different characters that play an important part in portraying the theme

Mrs. Dubose is a woman of strong mind and honorable courage. Although she was a drug addict and ‘Morphine’ is her pain killer. Was faced with the decision to continue taking her subscription drug, but she was strong-minded to get over her drug addiction before passing away, and she succeeded in doing so. She pass away “Beholding to nothing and nobody”. Mrs Dubose demonstrated real courage; it is not physical courage but moral courage. A sickly old woman overcoming her weakness knowing what right despite that other may disagree is the boldest.

Atticus Finch gives the impression of role model on moral courage. Assumed Tom Robinson case, Atticus destined to defend him in courage, in face of the discontentment of Maycomb County. Atticus has been verbally insulted on several occasion being called “Nigger – Lover” by people to and behind his back e.g.

Mrs. Dubose, his own sister Alexandra had refuted his choice; it has never uninspired his strength of mind. Atticus has knowledge of conflict against all the white society. He came to realization that the case would be almost impossible, “open and shut case” it’s a white man’s voice over a black man and the white man under no circumstances lose. In spite of all these disadvantages, he went through it and still wanting to defend Tom Robinson in court also following his personal principles. Before the trial of Tom Robinson, Atticus had to undertake several oppositions. Defend his friends and faced discouragement from his neighbor, but he remained strong minded and never once change his judgment. The night before the trial, he risked his own life and his children by going to defend Tom in the jailhouse unarmed from the white mob. Atticus was not forced to protect his client but he took it upon himself to protect his client so that he could be judged in court. He showed moral courage by putting himself in danger in way to let the truth be voiced, the kind of courage that Maycomb took as significance.


Throughout the novel, Harper lee put forward that moral courage is the prefect trait to be worth. Moral courage has been an important help to cure “the hell people give each other” in Maycomb society. In the case of Tom Robinson, it was clear to Atticus that it’s highly unlikely he would win the trial. Atticus’s moral courage was the only way he could deliver the truth and justice about the racial discrimination in Maycomb County. Atticus undergoes personal struggles as well as worrying about his children emotions and moral growth and also being spat on by Bob Ewell. Atticus may have lost the trial but really he has won trial morally by making Maycomb and the jury considers the thought that Tom may not be guilty. He had achieved what he wanted, making Maycomb as a whole to take “baby – step” closer to being fair and become a humane society. He went on doing, what many people do not dare to do was raise their voice against prejudice that rule of the county. Atticus moral courage has shameful truth for a better world, where there is no place for racial discrimination. For that he has been given conquest.


This report has revealed all the major factors in the theme courage throughout the book to kill a mockingbird through the use of characters, setting and plot to clarify to the audience and make them sympatric to the character in which the society has been prejudice towards them.

Harper Lee has portrayed courage as even the most indirect acts of courage does have an effect to make a difference; to be courageous it does not take power nor intelligence. Courage is doing what you know is right and acting upon it or being able to face your fears and overcome them. Telling the truth instead of denying or being in minority and yet have the courage to stand up and say no. The only courage that could redelivery you from one point to another is the courage that’s important.

In conclusion, highlighted throughout the novel are both physical and moral courage, but moral courage it plays more of important role in healing a prejudiced person in Maycomb society. Although moral courage is not seen clearly by other like physical courage; physical courage is a man ready to look of face an obstacle but moral courage is knowing “ when you know you’re liked before you begin but you begin anyway and get it through a matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do” – Atticus Finch.


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The Theme of Courage in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. (2017, Oct 27). Retrieved from

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