The theme of courage is explored throughout Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird and is an important attribute that Jem and Scout learn as they develop into morally-upright individuals like their father. The Finch children learn the importance of practicing courage when facing adversity, and Atticus goes out of his way to teach Jem and Scout specific lessons on courage.
In chapter eleven, Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bush, and Atticus punishes Jem by making him read to Mrs. Dubose each day after school. Shortly after Jem finishes his punishment, Mrs. Dubose passes away, and Atticus refers to her as the bravest person he's ever known. Atticus then explains to the children that Mrs. Dubose suffered from a chronic illness and was a morphine addict. Despite her painful illness, Mrs. Dubose was determined to break her addiction before she passed away. Atticus uses Mrs. Dubose's bravery and determination to teach his children a lesson on courage. Atticus then shares the definition of "real courage" by stating,
It’s when you know 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. (61)
In addition to defining "real courage" and allowing his children to witness Mrs. Dubose's exercise bravery and integrity, Atticus also demonstrates courage by choosing to defend a black man in front of a racist jury and audience. He willingly undergoes persecution from his prejudiced neighbors and puts his family in a compromising position by defending Tom Robinson. Atticus also demonstrates courage by valiantly preventing a lynch mob from harming Tom Robinson on the night before the trial.
By witnessing Mrs. Dubose break her addiction and Atticus valiantly defend Tom Robinson, Jem and Scout learn the importance of courage and recognize that it is a significant and valuable attribute to possess.