In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus says that Mrs. Dubose is a model of real courage rather "a man with a gun in his hand." What does he mean?
In chapter eleven, Atticus makes Jem read each day to Mrs. Dubose as punishment for destroying her camellia bush. Mrs. Dubose passes away shortly after Jem finishes his punishment, and Atticus explains to Jem that his reading helped Mrs. Dubose break her morphine addiction. According to Atticus, Mrs. Dubose is the most courageous person he's ever known because she knew that she would die from her chronic disease but remained determined to break her addiction. Atticus goes on to tell his children,
I wanted you to see something about her—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’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. (Lee, 115)
Atticus believes that real courage requires sacrifice and feels that an audience does not need to be present to witness the brave action. In contrast, a man with a gun is in a position of power, has the upper hand, and demands the spotlight. A man with a gun is nothing special, and it does not require courage to wield a weapon. In Atticus's perspective, real courage is done behind closed doors and happens when a person knows that they are at a disadvantage but continues to fight anyway.
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