One of the most significant themes in To Kill a Mockingbird is courage, and Harper Lee uses many of the characters and circumstances in her novel to demonstrate all facets of courage.
There is a physical courage which is demonstrated by Atticus standing in the middle of the street, facing off with a rabid dog armed only with a shotgun. This is an especially impressive feat to his children, of course, but Atticus now has to work extra hard to show them that there are other, more important kinds of courage.
The incident Jem has with Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose demonstrates another kind of courage. Here is an old woman who, we discover, is addicted to morphine. She is cantankerous, rude, and prejudiced; however, she also has a kind of inner strength which enables her to kick a long-time addiction in order to die free. Atticus tells Jem:
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...
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