To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How does Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird show courage?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout the novel, Atticus Finch attempts to instill positive character traits and qualities in both of his children by teaching them important life lessons and matching his actions to those lessons. One of the most significant life lessons Atticus teaches his children concerns exercising real courage. Atticus is the quintessential positive role model to Jem and Scout and displays real courage several times in the novel. Atticus shows courage in chapter ten by taking Sheriff Tate's rifle, standing directly in the path of a dangerous, rabid dog, and protecting the neighborhood by killing the dog in one shot.

Atticus also demonstrates his courage in chapter fifteen by refusing to leave the Maycomb jailhouse when the Old Sarum bunch arrives to lynch Tom Robinson before the trial. Despite being unarmed and outnumbered, Atticus does not waver and refuses to leave the scene. Atticus also demonstrates courage by valiantly defending Tom Robinson in front of a racist jury and town. Despite knowing that he has no chance of winning the case, Atticus follows his conscience by defending Tom and presents a moving argument that proves Tom's innocence. Atticus's decision to defend Tom Robinson to the best of his ability is his most courageous act and shows Jem and Scout the meaning of real courage, which is

. . . when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Atticus Finch is one of the main characters in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is through his actions that his children, Jem and Scout, come to understand the harsh realities in life. Through his actions, his children come to understand prejudice, hatred, standing up for one's self, and standing up against others (even when the person is considered the minority). 

That said, Atticus shows courage in a few different ways. First, he agrees to take on Tom Robinson's case, even though he is a black man and the town is very racist. Second, Atticus takes on the individuals of the town who are racist (as seen in the mob scene outside of the jail). Lastly, Atticus shoots down the rabid dog in the middle. All of theses things speak to Atticus' courage.

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