In point of fact, Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is full of many themes that serve as moral lessons for all human beings-be them Americans or non-Americans. However, the most predominate theme is courage. This theme is shown almost by all the characters in the novel and it takes different manifestations. In this essay, I am going to shed light on the modern man’s inability to show the sort of courage displayed by some characters of the book. The following question shall constitute the backbone of my essay: what thing is missing in our current world and is too strongly present in To Kill A Mockingbird?
Before answering this question, I deem it necessary to underline from the very beginning that Harper Lee uses different characters, who play the roles of mocking birds. Noteworthy is that no character in the novel is good or evil. Rather, every character is seen as human having human defects and flaws. Atticus has indeed strong views on courage. This courage has been shown to Jem and Scout. He taught them to be both brave and strong and not to easily surrender. To set an example, when Atticus instructed Scout to stop fighting the people that make fun of her, Scout was therefore obliged to ignore people’s insults and to be so brave enough to face them.
Obviously, Atticus was very attracted by the character of Mrs. Dubose since she displayed a real courage. Hence, when Jem destroyed her camellias, he made Jem go and learn from her. Atticus shows his admiration to Mrs. Dubose saying, “She had her own views about things, a lot different from mine, maybe… son, I told you that if you hadn’t lost your head I’d have made you go read to her-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. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”(112)
Throughout the novel, the reader must discover that Atticus is by no means the best example of courage and bravery. He wanted Scout and Jem to remember that he was not brave for being capable of shooting a crazy dog; rather, his bravery was seen for defending Tom Robinson even though he knew that he would never win the battle in the court against the white jury.
What is remarkable is that courage is also shown within the whole community. Hence, when fire speeded in Miss. Maudie’s house, “The men of Maycomb, in all degrees of dress and undress, took the furniture from Miss Maudie’s house to a yard across the street. I saw Atticus carrying Miss Maudie’s heavy oak rocking chair, and thought it sensible of him to save what she valued most.”(69)
The quotation above suggests that people in Maycomb are so helpful to eachother and have this sense of solidarity which modern people do not have due to selfishness and ego-centrism. Another character that has shown much courage is Boo. This happens when he saved Scout and Jem’s lives because Bob Ewell violently attacked them. When he saw that the children needed his help, he did not hesitate an instance to risk his life to save Scout and Jem’s lives. In short, many people displayed much courage in the novel, yet it is Atticus that instructed them what is courage.
As a human distinct quality, courage is needed and is even recommended nowadays in the modern man, who is all the time afraid of defending his own rights, let alone the rights of other people. This is due of course to the intervention of the oppressive machine that never allows people to articulate their opinions freely and consequently get their rights back. This sort of solidarity pervading in the Finch family and also in their social milieu is what we need actually to do away with social injustice and inequity.
Thanks to courage, Atticus was admired both by his children and the whole community. As a fair and a just lawyer, he does not hold grudges nor does he show any kind of phobia to people. He looks at every situation from various angles. Miss Maude appreciated his character and hence, she says, “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets,” (87) and this could also be applied to the way by dint of which he behaves in the courtroom.
The Finches were not the only ones who displayed courage during the course of the novel. Indeed, even Tom Robinson showed a plenty of courage just by trying to win in a racist court room that denies the rights of the Negro minority. Tom and Atticus somehow managed to exert a great impact on one man in the jury, one who was also part of the mob, Mr. Cunningham. Unfortunately, the latter had to be convinced by the other twelve jury members that Tom was guilty.
Even more importantly, Atticus is able to gracefully point out to the jury that although there probably are a few black men who are capable of crimes, “this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men” (208). Such great audacity to say “No” to the white jury in the court is meant to educate the potential readership and to sensitize them of the kind of chaos present in the court.
All the afore-mentioned characters showed lots of courage towards what was happening around them. They all stood up for what they believed to be right and they never gave up. Unlike them, the modern men are easily defeated by the incidents that occurr to them and, strikingly, terror sneaks easily to their hearts. To Kill A Mockingbird is a good example of how the views of a town can be altered through some courageous individuals who stood up for what they believed in.
In a nutshell, To Kill a Mockingbird is an inspirational book. Critics not only agree that the book provides pleasure, but it also shows how we really did detach from many basic values that govern our lives. Aren’t we today in a need of a strong, brave and upright character like Atticus to do away with many debatable issues like racism? This is left for the reader to decide upon.