What exactly is emotional courage for an essay on To Kill A Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Atticus, emotional courage is the ability to face adversity and go through with something honorable, even though you realize that it is impossible to win. Throughout the novel, Atticus attempts to teach and show his children the importance of having emotional courage. In chapter 9, Scout asks Atticus if he will win his court case. Atticus responds by telling his daughter "No, honey." When she asks why, Atticus says,

"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win" (Lee, 48).

In chapter 11, Jem and Scout get their first lesson on "real courage" as Atticus makes Jem read to the morphine-addicted, chronically ill Mrs. Dubose. After she passes away, Atticus explains that she had the courage to conquer her addiction, even though she knew she would die soon. Atticus tells his children,

"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" (Lee, 69).

Later on in the novel, Atticus demonstrates emotional courage by valiantly defending Tom Robinson in front of a prejudiced jury. Even though Atticus realizes that he has little to no chance of winning the case, he defends Tom to the best of his ability because it is the morally right thing to do.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emotional courage is the ability to do something even when you are afraid. 

There are several examples of emotional courage in the book.  For instance, Atticus is defending Tom Robinson even though it is not popular.

Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one's mine, I guess. (ch 9)

Atticus also uses Mrs. Dubose as an example of emotional courage, because she stands up to her own fear as well as her physical addiction when she weans herself off of morphine.

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. (ch 11)

The key in this case is that you keep fighting, even if you think you are going to lose or you are afraid you are going to lose.

Emotional courage is being brave by ACTING brave even when you don't FEEL brave.  Atticus exemplifies this because he defends Tom Robinson with everything he's got, even though he is almost certain he will lose.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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