The True Nature of Courage in the Novel ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee


In the novel ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee there is a theme of courage throughout the whole novel. There are several kinds of courage that Harper Lee uses: There is the basic courage required to overcome childish fears, such as Scout, Jem and Dill running past the Radley house and the slightly more serious examples, such as Atticus facing the mad dog. This is physical courage. There is also the more difficult type of courage, which is moral courage; for example when Scout must find the courage not to retaliate when her friends say horrible things about her father. Mrs. Dubose shows moral courage too, when she chooses to rid herself of her drug addiction before she dies, even though she knows she is dying and, in that sense, there is no point to her battle, but she does win in the end and Atticus says she is ‘the bravest person’ he knows. Atticus wants Jem and Scout to realise that all courage is not just ‘a man with a gun in his hand’. Even more admirable is how Atticus has the courage to take on a task, which is almost certain to end in failure. He knew it wasn\'t going to be a popular thing to do and that people might react badly to him and even his children but he tries to live his life by truth and doing what he knows to be right no matter what.


The novel is narrated by a young girl named Jean Louise Finch, who is almost always called by her nickname, Scout. Scout starts to explain the circumstances that led to the broken arm that her older brother, Jem, sustained many years earlier; she begins by recounting her family history. A successful lawyer, Atticus makes a solid living in Maycomb, a tired, poor, old town in the grips of the Great Depression. He lives with Jem and Scout on Maycomb\'s main residential street. Their cook, an old black woman named Calpurnia, also lives in the house. Scout’s mother died when she was very young and she does not remember her, but Jem, who is a few years older, sometimes gets memories of his mother that make him unhappy. In the summer of 1933, when Jem is nearly ten and Scout is almost six, a strange boy named Charles Baker Harris moves in next door. The boy, who calls himself Dill, stays for the summer with his aunt, Miss Rachel Haverford, who owns the house next to the Finch’s. Dill doesn\'t like to discuss his father\'s absence from his life, but he is otherwise a talkative and very clever boy who quickly becomes the Finch children\'s chief playmate. All summer, the three act out various stories that they have read. When they grow bored of this activity, Dill suggests that they attempt to lure Boo Radley, a mysterious neighbour, out of his house. Arthur "Boo" Radley lives in the run-down Radley Place, and no one has seen him outside it in years. Scout recounts how, as a boy, Boo got in trouble with the law and his father imprisoned him in the house as punishment. He was not heard from until fifteen years later, when he stabbed his father with a pair of scissors. This makes Boo seem rather sinister and so this is where we see the first act of courage really takes place. Dill dares Jem to go and touch the Radley house:


“I’ll swap you ‘The Grey Ghost’ if you just go up and touch the house”


Jem is quite scared by this, because of the history behind Boo, but still he does not want to seem like a coward and therefore goes ahead with it.


“Jem threw open the gate and sped to the side of the house, slapped it with his palm and ran back past us,”


One of the central themes of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, aside from courage, is the process of growing up and developing a more mature perspective on life. The narrator gradually begins to mirror a loss of innocence, as the carefree childhood of the first chapter is slowly replaced by a darker, more dangerous, and