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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus shows courage throughout the novel, and especially when he shoots the rabid dog and defends Tom Robinson in the trial.  A rabid dog has wandered into Maycomb, and Heck Tate asks Atticus to shoot the dog because Heck is afraid he will miss and the bullet will hit the Radley house.  Atticus is known for his shooting abilities, and he has the nickname, “ol’ one shot Finch” from his childhood.  Atticus calmly lowers the rifle and shoots the dog earning the respect of Scout and Jem for his abilities.

In addition, Atticus shows courage when he is appointed Tom Robinson’s lawyer in the trial of Mayella Ewell’s rape.  We first see this courage when he confronts the lynch mob outside the jail.  Atticus is sitting outside the jail protecting Tom from the men in town who don’t think that Tom needs a fair trial.  They already decide that Tom is guilty and try to take justice in their own hands.  Atticus (and his children) stand up to the mob, and the mob end up leaving Tom and Atticus alone.

By accepting the task of defending Tom, Atticus also shows great courage despite the fact that his decision can put his family in danger.  People around town like Mrs. Dubose start calling him names, Scout and Jem get harassed at school, and Bob Ewell is stalking around town stirring up trouble for the judge and Atticus.  Atticus, however, stays true to his convictions and defends Tom to the best of his ability even though Atticus risks his career and family. 

A final courageous thing Atticus does is to go to Helen Robinson and tell her that Tom has been shot trying to escape prison.  His respect for the Robinsons causes him to take on this responsibility. 

Overall, Atticus is a courageous man for raising two children on his own and teaching them the many important lessons he does throughout the novel.  He is also courageous for his attempt to provide justice for a man who is convicted by public opinion and the jury even before he sets foot in the courthouse. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus reveals his courage in several ways throughout the novel. Atticus courageously takes Sheriff Tate's rifle and shoots the rabid dog staggering down the main street of Maycomb. Atticus also courageously deals with the harsh criticism he receives from the community concerning his defense of Tom Robinson. Despite the numerous insults, Atticus stays true to himself and displays his tolerance by acting amiably towards his racist neighbors.

In chapter 15, Atticus reveals his courage by traveling to the Maycomb jailhouse at night and refusing to move out of the way for the lynch mob. Atticus bravely denies the Old Sarum bunch access to Tom Robinson and saves his life the night before the trial. Atticus also explains to his daughter the definition of real courage. Atticus tells Scout,

"It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." (115)

Atticus goes on to demonstrate "real courage" by valiantly defending Tom Robinson in front of a prejudiced jury. Even though Atticus knows that he will not win the case, he accepts the difficult task and tries his best. Overall, Atticus reveals his courageous personality in many ways throughout the novel by controlling his anger, exercising tolerance, and defending innocent beings. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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