What passages represent courage in chapters 1-10 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ability to identify courage is a very dominant theme all throughout Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and many passages reveal the characters' perception of courage. More importantly, Jem's and Scout's perspectives of courage change the more they come to understand their father's own perspective of courage. Within the first ten chapters, one thing Atticus says that helps us begin to see his perspective of courage concerns his defense of Tom Robinson.

We begin to learn about Atticus's role as defense attorney in Tom Robinson's case in Chapter 9, especially when Atticus begins talking about the case with his brother Jack. Atticus explains that the only evidence being used in the case is a "black man's word against the Ewells'," and no jury would accept Robinson's word in favor of the Ewells' due to racial prejudices. Atticus further states that he had "hoped to get through life" without having to deal with an unfair, racially biased case; yet, he was specifically chosen by Judge Taylor to be Robinson's defense lawyer, so he knows he must take the case. More importantly, he knows he is morally obliged to defend Robinson due to the lack of evidence against him. Since he feels morally obligated, Atticus knows he must bravely face any ridicule he and his children will receive from the town for his decision to defend Robinson. Jack implies he understands just how much courage Atticus needs to pursue his defense of Robinson when he asks Atticus, "Let this cup pass from you, eh?," which serves as an allusion to the biblical Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Atticus further expresses the amount of courage he must summon to put his all into defending Robinson when he responds to Jack's comment with the following:

Right. 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. (Ch. 9)

In speaking of "what's going to happen," Atticus is referring to the ridicule and abuse he and his children will receive from the town due to the people's racial prejudices, ridicule and abuse that will take a great deal of courage to face.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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