What is an example in To Kill a Mockingbird of when displaying courage revealed someone's character?

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Some important examples of people showing courage are Jem’s pants, Mrs. Dubose’s morphine addiction, and Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson

Integrity is an important concept in the book.  As the children age, they are learning the value of maturity and reputation.  Jem faces down a challenge when he loses his pants, and goes back to the Radley house to retrieve them.  This requires courage for two reasons.  First, the Radley house is supposed to be dangerous because Boo Radley is portrayed as a monster.  Second, the Radley place might actually be dangerous because Nathan Radley shoots at anything that moves in his yard.

Despite this, Jem goes back.  He goes back because he does not want his father to be disappointed in him.  He wants Atticus to think that he is brave and honest.  To Jem, his father’s opinion of him is more important than any danger he might be in or any trouble he might get into.

He blew out his breath patiently. “I—it’s like this, Scout,” he muttered. “Atticus ain’t ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way.” (Ch. 6)

Atticus told Jem and Scout not to bother the Radleys, and they didn’t listen. If Jem’s pants don’t show up, Atticus will know what happened.  Although trying to keep a secret from his father is immature, Jem’s desire to protect his reputation and have his father be proud of him isn’t.  Jem shows courage in going back to finish what he started.

Early on, Atticus uses the example of Mrs. Dubose to teach Scout and Jem a lesson in character that they certainly were not expecting.  Mrs. Dubose is a horrible, mean old woman.  She shouts insults at the children as they pass, and she is an unrepentant racist.  She doesn't have many character strengths.  What she does have is determination.  Through Mrs. Dubose, the children learn the importance of not giving up against impossible odds.

Mrs. Dubose is addicted to morphine.  The children have no idea until Jem loses it and attacks all of her camellias when she accosts him with racist remarks about his father.  To atone for his crime, Jem has to go sit with her and read to her.  Later, Atticus tells them that she died, but when she died she was no longer addicted to the drug.  She weaned herself off.

Atticus explained to his children why he wanted them so badly to see Mrs. Dubose’s struggle.

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. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. (Ch. 11)

This is important because Jem and Scout will need to be strong during the upcoming trial.  They have to learn the value of mental courage.  Like Mrs. Dubose, Atticus is fighting a losing battle.  Mrs. Dubose won hers, but he is unlikely to win his.  Still, he must try.  It is a battle worth fighting.

Of course, the person who shows the most courage is Atticus.  He is taking a big risk in defending Tom Robinson when the whole town seems to be against him.  Although he was assigned the task, he does his best with it.  Most other men would have presented a halfhearted defense and not tried to win.  Atticus’s strength of character comes from the fact that he has to stand up to Maycomb every day in order to defend his client.

Atticus explains to his brother Jack why he felt he had to take the case.

But do you think I could face my children otherwise? You know what’s going to happen as well as I do, Jack, and I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease. (Ch. 9)

Atticus doesn’t want his children to become racists.  However, he also wants to teach them the value of standing up for what you believe in.  Atticus believes in justice, and he will defend it. 

Courage comes in many forms.  Sometimes it is physical courage, like Atticus shooting the mad dog or Boo Radley killing Bob Ewell.  Both of these events showed that the men were willing to stand up for and defend others, even at great risk to themselves.  Courage can also be more complex.  It can mean finishing what you started.

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