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How does Atticus' definition of courage foreshadow upcoming events in To Kill a...

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ashleekildow | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:51 PM via web

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How does Atticus' definition of courage foreshadow upcoming events in To Kill a Mockingbird?

This would be in Part 1.

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

Posted August 15, 2012 at 9:47 PM (Answer #1)

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Atticus is quick to point out to Jem shortly after Mrs. Dubose's death that "She was the bravest person I ever met." To Atticus, real courage is not "a man with a gun in his hand," referring to not only gunslingers and war heroes, but also to his own previous experience when he killed the mad dog. Jem and Scout were excited about the revelation that Atticus was once the "deadest shot in Maycomb County," but Atticus was obviously not comfortable with his killing ability or his children's newfound hero worship. To Atticus, real courage is

"... when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."  (Chapter 11)

This type of gunless courage is found several times in the second part of the novel. Atticus defends Tom, knowing that he has no chance of winning, but he sees it through till the end. He stands up for Tom alone against the lynch mob, refusing to give Tom up despite the possibility of personal injury or even death. Tom himself shows bravery on the witness stand, answering his questions truthfully under strenuous questioning. Even in death, Tom shows courage, deciding to run when he grew "tired of white man's chances and preferred to take his own." Dolphus Raymond shows an unusual type of courage, openly living with a black woman and deliberately misleading the townspeople about his reasons for weaving about Maycomb pretending to be a drunk. And finally, Boo Radley exhibits bravery by not only emerging from his house but also by fending off the armed Bob Ewell from his attack upon Jem and Scout. Boo's courageous action could have led to an open investigation in which he would have been dragged "into the limelight"--an event Sheriff Tate refused to allow since it would have been "a sin" to do so. Tate's decision was also a courageous one, risking his job and reputation by allowing Bob's death to be falsely considered self-inflicted.

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tidegrad | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 14, 2012 at 7:08 AM (Answer #2)

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Foreshadowing is a literary device authors use to indirectly hint at future events in the story.  Atticus's definition of courage is very specific and unordinary.  In fact, when he provides this definition, the children do not even have a frame of reference for this type of courage.  Courage, to them, is what it takes to knock on the Radley door or what you show in the face of physical threats.  They cannot even imagine a time when courage the way their father defines it would ever even be necessary, much less how challenging actually manifesting would be.  Through this powerful definition, Lee foreshadows the coming of a time when exhibiting courage of this magnitude will be necessary, and she provides a reference for the children to recognize and understand their father's actions.  When Atticus takes on Tom Robinson's case, to many people, he is stupid.  The case involves a black man's word agaisnt that of a white woman, and it does not matter what proof exists, the historical context of the case dictates that Robinson will hang.  For this reason, no one  can understand why Atticus would take on the case.  This is not the opinion of everyone, though, and it is especially not the opinion of Scout and Jem.  They understand that for their father courage is "when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what" (pg 149). 

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