Theme of power and control in To Kill a Mocking Bird
Courage, Part One
Courage is the ability to not be changed by danger or pain and this is a re-occurring theme in To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. You can sense courage in all the main characters in the book, some of which I am going to highlight.
Jem and Scout’s dad, Atticus Finch isn’t a fan of criminal law yet he accepts the appointment to the Tom Robinson case, although he’s confident his side won’t be victorious in the trial. Accepting the case was a hazardous decision for Atticus because he’s aware of the negativity himself and his kids could face, which ends up being the case as the book continues. He also knows that the majority of whites living in Maycomb want to see Tom Robinson, a guy accused of raping and murdering a white girl killed. Despite all the negativity him and his kids get, he does everything to make sure that Tom Robinson gets a fair trial. Atticus is portrayed in the book as a man with a lot of moral courage as he defends Tom Robinson despite being called a “n*gger lover” by many people. He also asked Jem and Scout not to fight back when people said unpleasant things about him. Even if Tom was innocent and the whites knew he was, the racial prejudices of the 1930s in the US prevent them from admitting out the truth. It takes courage for Atticus to do the right thing. This shows the difference between Atticus and most of America at the time as he was fair and supported what was right.
Atticus showed more of his physical courage when he stepped down on the road to gun down a rabid dog, in chapter 10. Although he didn’t regard his doings as ‘courageous’ and wasn’t interested in showing off to his children, they were pretty impressed by their dad in such a precarious situation. Atticus didn’t consider shooting as courage. He thought courage was something moral, something that comes from within, not as something that can be shown off by a weapon. He uses Miss. Dubose as an example to tell Jem that a true man isn’t a man with a gun, but someone who fights for what’s right whether the person wins or not (Page. 124 “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.”) This relates very well with his case with Tom Robinson.
Atticus has been presented as a very intellectual man in the novel by Harper Lee. He is an open minded dad (he doesn’t mind Scout acting like a boy) however his precious moral teachings to his children is pivotal to their mental growth. He’s a very intelligent and has a calm wisdom to which Uncle Jack would agree. I personally think that Atticus is a successful character in the book. People reading the book today would admire his fairness towards the Blacks and the way he taught his children. He’s is a much respected person in Maycomb that functioned as the moral backbone.
Another character that showed courage in different ways is Jem Finch. His insights on courage change throughout the course of Chapter 1 to Chapter 11 as he matures along the process. At the start of the novel, Scout, Jem’s sister stated that Jem “never declined a dare” in his entire life which shows his childish view of courage, that courage was merely accepting the dares he faced. In addition, “he loved his honour more than his head” demonstrations his stupidity as he accepted his dares with closed eyes without considering the consequences or his safety. In Chapter 6, Jem went to get his trousers back from the Radley place’s fence as it got stuck on the way home, knowing that the Radleys keep a gun inside their house. His ‘bravery’ led him to so some insane things, such as touching the Radley place and running back, just because he “wanted Dill to know once and for all that he wasn’t scared of anything”, This obviously wasn’t endured Atticus as he asked Jem to “mind your own business and let the Radleys mind theirs”
However, Jem’s attitude towards courage changes as he enters Adolescence verified by his reaction when he sees Dill emerge from underneath Scout’s bed. He tells Dill “let your mother know where you are” and handles the situation like an adult would. He analysed the situation very well and put himself in Dill’s parents’ shoes that made him realise they would be worried.
On the whole, I think that Jem’s maturity changing his courage is portrayed quite well on the book. He takes his responsibilities seriously most maturing teenagers; however there are teenagers who don’t!
The last character that presents a form of courage I’m going to analyse is Calpurnia, the Finch family’s housekeeper although she acts almost like a housemaid. When Jem and Scout saw the mad dog (chapter 10), Calpurnia asked the neighbours to close their door which was what they did. “Calpurnia’s message had been revived by the neighborhood. Every wood door within our range of vision was closed tight” This shows the authority and the knowledge that she has on her surrounding area as the neighbours trusted her words, although she was black. She also ran out into the open to inform the Radleys about the dog, knowing she could be in trouble if it attacks her. She’s also made aware of the fact that no one ever comes out of the Radley place by Jem and Scout but he puts herself in danger anyways just to be sure.
She is a very loving character that takes care of the Finch family. She’s portrayed to be almost a mother of Jem and Scout, which wouldn’t have happened without Atticus not believing in racial prejudices.
In the whole I think the whole of Maycomb is a courageous place, represented by the fire breaking out in Miss Maude’s home. The people came along and helped Miss Maudie to move her furniture across the yard without hesitation, possibly putting their lives in danger. The people’s acts of helping Miss Maudie attests there is a positive in every negative.
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