Discuss the theme of bravery in To Kill a Mockingbird and how it is portrayed in the book? Discuss how the different characters show bravery.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bravery is shown in many different ways by the characters in the novel. Atticus displays moral courage by accepting to defend Tom Robinson, a decision that he knows will make him unpopular and possibly even bring trouble for his family. He shows personal bravery when he stands up to the lynch mob alone at the jail, knowing that it may result in personal injury or even death. He takes up the rifle again after 30 years to kill the mad dog but, later, he is quick to point out to Jem that Mrs. Dubose--who fearlessly kicks her longstanding morphine addiction before she dies--is actually "the bravest person I ever knew."

"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."  (Chapter 11)

Jem shows physical bravery at the end of the story when he defends Scout from the murderous attack by Bob Ewell, and he displays it earlier when he decides to stand by his father at the jail on the night the lynch mob arrived. Scout also shows bravery that night when she attacks one of the men who has manhandled Jem.

     "Don't you touch him!" I kicked the man swiftly. Barefooted, I was surprised to see him fall back in real pain. I intended to kick his shin, but aimed too high."  (Chapter 15)

Boo shows great personal bravery at the end of the novel when he comes to the rescue of Jem and Scout, and Tom Robinson's courage is also evident when he takes the stand and tells the truth in the face of the Ewells' lies. Miss Maudie shows her own unique feminine courage by always speaking her mind even when it may go against the gossip of her neighbors and fellow church-goers. Even minor characters display acts of courage, such as when Dick Avery risks personal injury on the night of Miss Maudie's house fire. As for the antithesis of bravery, the reader only has to look to Bob Ewell: A dastardly coward who cares little for his own children, Bob sends an innocent man to his death through his racist lies and then attempts to even the score with Atticus by killing Jem and Scout--actions that back up Atticus claim that the Ewells had been the "disgrace of Maycomb for three generations." 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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