To Kill a Mockingbird is a book about courage in many different situations from many different characters. The definition of courage is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” There are so many instances of courage in the novel that it is impossible not to consider it as one of the key themes of the novel. From childhood perceptions of courage such as completing a dare to the monumental examples of courage from Atticus defending Tom Robinson, all forms of courage were displayed. Atticus Finch shows continuous and unwavering courage whilst defending Tom Robinson’s rape charge. Atticus knows that Tom is not guilty and despite Maycombe’s ‘Usual disease’ he defends Tom willing to put his reputation and life on the line. Throughout the case Atticus knows that in the end his reputation will be tarnished and as Link Deas says he had “everything to lose”. To have the mental courage and strength to continue to fight a losing battle like his is incredible and this shows the difficulties aspect of courage.
Atticus also faced extreme physical threats throughout the duration of the novel exemplified by the situation at the Jailhouse where Atticus is threatened by a mob trying to take Tom. Atticus shows true courage by remaining calm and not backing down in the face of physical harm. In response for the mob’s calls for Atticus to step aside he replies, “You can turn around and go home again, Walter”. Atticus knows that he could not win a fight against this mob but he just won’t back down showing both courage and stubbornness. Atticus is just one of the many characters that are a prime example of courage in this novel. Jem is a character that shows courage but in different situations and in a more childlike sense of the word in To kill a Mockingbird. At the start of the novel Jem considers courage to touching the side of the Radley house, but as the novel progresses Jem’s perceptions on courage and his courageous actions advance.
At the time of the start of the story, Jem touching the side of the Radley’s house was extremely ‘brave’ or ‘courageous’ and he never backed down from a dare. But an example of a more mature showing of courage is when Jem won’t leave Atticus with the mob at the jailhouse. Jem knows that there is a problem and despite never refusing to do what Atticus had said before, at this time of trouble Jem steps up and stands his ground. There are multiple courageous people and acts of courage in To kill a Mockingbird and Jem is just one example of this. Mrs Dubose shows yet again another type of courage, one that involved recognizing one’s own flaws and dealing with them. Atticus explains after her death the significance of her actions to the 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. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. 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.” This perfectly sums up what Mrs Dubose did; she turned around her drug issues and died like she had said, beholden to nothing and nobody. Her drug withdrawal was tough, as with any, but she fought the withdrawal with extreme courage and conquered her issues. The type of inner mental courage shown by Mrs Dubose is different to moral courage of Atticus and the coming of age courage of Jem but nonetheless a valid form of courage. Courage is shown in many ways in To kill a Mockingbird. By the people of the town and in some cases the town itself.
3 of the prime examples of the key theme of courage in the novel are shown by Jem when he shows that courage is not merely accepting a dare, Atticus by risking his reputation and health for what is right and Mrs Dubose for confronting her inner demons and destroying her drug problem before her death. Many more examples of courage occur in the novel proving that one of the novels key themes that it at times revolves around is courage, in all of its forms.