In Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is portrayed as a morally-upright, intelligent lawyer, who continually teaches his children important life lessons while acting as a positive role model. One of the most memorable lessons audiences can take from the novel concerns the definition of "real courage." In chapter eleven, Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bush in a fit of rage and Atticus forces him to read to her for two hours each day. Jem's punishment lasts over a month and Mrs. Dubose dies shortly after he stops reading to her. Following Mrs. Dubose's death, Atticus explains to his children that she was a chronically ill woman, who wanted to break her morphine addiction before she died. Atticus proceeds to call Mrs. Dubose the bravest person he ever knew and offers his children the definition of real courage by saying,
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, 115).
Atticus not only explains the definition of real courage but also lives his truth by valiantly defending Tom Robinson. Atticus recognizes that he has no chance of winning the case but is adamant about doing the right thing and following through with his assignment. In a discussion with Scout, Atticus tells her that he will not win the case but elaborates on his decision to defend Tom Robinson by saying,
Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win (Lee, 78).
Atticus's memorable lesson on real courage is one of the many moral lessons he shares with Jem and Scout throughout the novel, which the audience can apply to their own lives. Atticus also teaches his children the importance of perspective and protecting innocent, defenseless beings. In chapter three, Atticus teaches Scout about perspective by saying,
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it (Lee, 30).
In regards to the importance of protecting innocent, defenseless beings, Atticus tells his children,
Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird (Lee, 93).