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In Chapter 11 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how could this also apply to Tom Robinson and...

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mark222 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:28 PM via web

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In Chapter 11 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how could this also apply to Tom Robinson and Atticus himself?

Who is Atticus talking about when he says that courage is not "a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you're licked before begin but you begin anyway and you it through no matter what."

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:24 PM (Answer #1)

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The "man with the gun in his hand" of whom Atticus is talking is Atticus himself. This quote comes from the final chapter of Part One following the death of Mrs. Dubose. Atticus is trying to explain the differences in courage, illustrating to Jem that the old lady's courage was not a typical type. Mrs. Dubose's decision to rid herself of her morphine addiction was a brave one, according to Atticus.

"--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... She was the bravest person I ever knew."

The man with the gun alludes to Atticus and his recent shooting of the mad dog. Jem and Scout were excited to find out that Atticus was the "best shot in Maycomb County" when he was a youth, and they couldn't understand why he had never told them about it. Atticus was not proud of his killing talent, and he wanted Jem to see that real courage did not require a gun.

The quotation also applies to the Tom Robinson trial. Atticus knows that he cannot win the case: No jury will accept a black man's word over a white man's. Nevertheless, Atticus takes the case and plans to see it through to the end, even though he knows he's "licked before you begin."

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