To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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I Wanted You To See What Real Courage Is

Please explain this quote by Atticus from "To Kill a Mockingbird".

"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 are 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, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her view she died beholden to nothing and nobody. SHe was the bravest person i ever knew."

what is he saying in this quote?!

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Reuben Lindsey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is spoken by Atticus to Jem.  In the previous chapter, Jem was amazed to find out that Atticus is an impressive shooter, the best in town.  This knowledge inspires respect in Jem.  However, Atticus doesn't want Jem thinking that courage is connected with having a gun and shooting things.  He doesn't want Jem to think that courage has to do with physical actions or fighting.  Atticus wants Jem to understand that standing up in the face of certain failure is what courage is.  If you know that you will fail, but you insist on standing up for what you believe in, or fighting for what is important to you, then you are showing real courage.

This is what Mrs. Dubose did.  She had the kids reading to her every day because she needed a distraction.  Her sickness caused her great pain, and she had become addicted to morphine.  She didn't want to be dependent on anything - she didn't want to be an addict.  Even though she knew she was about to die, Mrs. Dubose was determined that she would die free, not controlled by some substance.  This is the type of courage that Atticus was talking about.

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writingwhiz | Student

When Jem & Scout witness their father shooting the rabid dog, Jem is especially impressed, but Atticus doesn't want the children to view him as courageous simply because he shoots a dangerous animal. His message about Mrs. Dubose is an extension of the children seeing "Maycomb's best shot." Above all, he wants them to know that courage involves more than just a man with a shotgun. Mrs. Dubose's desire to die unaddicted to morphine is a testament to her courage. Because she had relied on the drug to mask her pain for so long, she wants to leave the world as she came into it -- free from any dependency and any critical judgment.