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What is Harper Lee's definition of a hero in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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lkehoe | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:20 PM via web

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What is Harper Lee's definition of a hero in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 19, 2013 at 6:30 AM (Answer #2)

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Clearly, Atticus Finch is the mouthpiece for Harper Lee in many situations.  Indeed, his is the voice of patience and wisdom. In Chapter  10, for instance, he instructs Scout that she should try to become the other person and "walk in his skin" in order to understand him. Then, in Chapter 11, after having assigned Jem to read to Mrs. Dubose as punishment for having destroyed her camellias, she courageously withdraws from laudanum, an opiate. Hearing that she has withdrawn, Atticus defines a hero to his children, 

"Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing 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."

In addition to being Harper Lee's mouthpiece, Atticus Finch exemplifies his own definition of a person with courage; in other words, a hero. For, he takes on the case for Tom Robinson knowing that he will probably lose the case.  Nevertheless, he "sees it through" and earns the approbation of many.  And, after Atticus loses the case, Miss Maudie consoles Atticus's sister, Alexandra, telling her,"We're paying the highest tribute we can pay a man," meaning that the town recognizes the integrity of Atticus and respects him for having had the courage to defend Tom.

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