Would the following evidence support the thesis "True courage is demonstrated by taking action" based on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird? Atticus showed courage by defending Tom Robinson...

Would the following evidence support the thesis "True courage is demonstrated by taking action" based on Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

  • Atticus showed courage by defending Tom Robinson during this time.
  • Atticus went  to the jailhouse to protect Robinson from a mob.
  • Scout didn't care what others thought of her. 
  • Scout went to read to Mrs. Dubose, who was dying of cancer.
Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus's brave choices to defend Tom Robinson and to fight for Robinson's life in the face of a lynch mob, despite the town's ridicule and eminent danger to his own life, certainly serves as excellent evidence to prove true courage is demonstrated in actions.

It is also true Scout courageously rebels against society's dictated role for her as a girl by wearing only overalls and playing "boyish" games involving dirt and mud.

It can also be said that Scout demonstrates courage by bravely accompanying her brother when he reads to Mrs. Dubose. We might also say that Jem receives the greatest lesson in courage through this experience because he learns to associate courage with being able to treat others with respect, no matter what. Scout recognizes Jem has internalized this lesson due to the new way he responds to Mrs. Dubose anytime she says something antagonizing:

Through the weeks he had cultivated an expression of polite and detached interest, which he would present to her in answer to her most blood-curdling inventions (Chapter 11).

In addition, through his experience with Mrs. Dubose, Jem comes to realize that to be a "great lady," as Atticus phrases it, is to be extremely courageous, whereas Scout doesn't internalize this lesson in bravery until the day Tom Robinson dies.

Rather than argue, Scout acted courageously by accompanying her brother as he read to Mrs. Dubose. One might argue that Scout acted bravely in joining her aunt's missionary circle for refreshments and finally learning to accept the idea of being a lady because she saw how much courage being a lady requires. Scout is finally able to associate being a lady with courage when she observes her aunt and Miss Maudie put on brave faces and resume entertaining their company after the distressing news of Robinson's death. Scout reflects on her newfound association of being a lady with being brave in the following:

I carefully picked up the tray and watched myself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my best company manners, I asked her if she would have some. After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I (Chapter 24).

We can associate entertaining company with being brave because it takes a great deal of courage to set aside one's own troubles for the sake of putting others' needs first, for the sake of treating others with the utmost respect.

Hence, while Atticus acted courageously by defending and protecting Robinson, it can be said that Scout acted bravely by learning to be herself while also accepting her role as a lady, as she was able to associate being a lady with being courageous. Additionally, both Atticus's and Scout's acts of bravery directly relate to their moral value of treating others with the utmost respect at all times.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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