How Does Atticus Show Courage

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Even though Atticus shows courage throughout the novel, there are three main scenes that really show what kind of man he is.  The first is when he decides to defend Tom Robinson for the rape of Mayella Ewell.  Defending a black man is a risky thing to do not only because of the prejudice and racism of the people of Maycomb, but also because of Atticus's stature in the town.  Atticus is risking his career and family name by defending Tom.  He is courageous in the fact that justice is more important than any personal harm that could come about from defending him.  Another episode when Atticus shows courage is when he sits outside the jail protecting Tom the night Tom is arrested for the rape.  A mob comes to the jail in hopes of lynching Tom, and Atticus, with the help of Scout, thwarts the attempt by the mob.  He calmly and logically talks to the mob even though he, too, is in danger.  Scout recognizes someone in the mob and points him out thus reducing him to an individual rather that a member of an unlawful group.  The third main episode that shows Atticus's courage is when he shoots the rabid dog.  A rabid dog wanders into town and is a danger to the citizens.  Atticus, who was considered a good shot, kills the dog before it can do any harm.  Many think that the rabid dog is a symbol of racism, and is related to Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson in that he hopes to overcome the racism in Maycomb by showing Tom's innocence.

Other examples:  

  • Atticus defends Boo Radley to the sheriff after Boo kills Bob Ewell.
  • Atticus goes to Tom Robinson's house to tell Tom's family that Tom has been killed.
  • Throughout the novel, Atticus's values and beliefs don't waver.  
  • Atticus is courageous as a single father raising two children.