Courage Of Atticus Finch In The Face Of Danger In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird
Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief; and may come in two forms: internal and external. Published in the year 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird became an instant American classic. This novel uses the perspective of Scout Finch to present her father, Atticus, as an attorney who strives to prove the innocence of a black man accused of rape. In 1930s Maycomb Alabama, this is merely a fantasy amid racism and social prejudice. Although many characters in this book may be seen as courageous, Lee uses Atticus to present a strong figure of external courage; putting down a deranged dog, standing up to a violent mob, and upholding to his morals in court. One instance of courage is when Atticus demonstrates happens when he must put down an aggressive and deranged dog. When Calpurnia, the Finches’ housekeeper, spots a mad dog approaching the Finch house, she calls Atticus. Atticus comes back with Sheriff Heck Tate, who brings a rifle and requests that Atticus shoot the creature. Contrary to Jem and Scout’s thoughts about their Dad, he turns out to be incredibly talented with the gun and put the dog down instantly from a considerable distance.
Seeing as the children were surprised, Miss Maudie tells them, ‘If your father’s anything, he’s civilized in his heart. Marksmanship’s a gift of God, a talent – oh, you have to practice to make it perfect, but shootin’s different from playing the piano or the like. I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn’t shoot till he had to, and he had to today’. The children learn their dad is known to many as a great marksman who gave up his talent due to his empathy toward living creatures. Atticus realizes that part of being an individual with talent is not abusing it and only using it when necessary for the safety and well being of others. Atticus is shown to not enjoy the task of handling a gun again due to personal, moral issues surrounding violence. Atticus takes the shot knowing full well that he could potentially miss due to his rustiness in hunting, causing the hound to be aggravated and start attacking the group, which included his children. While the dog seemed aggressive, it was not clear whether the dog was suffering from rabies, which could be the cause of the dogs aggression. Atticus risked the suffering he would potentially endure if the dog turned out to be clear of the illness. Overall, Atticus exemplifies a plucky attitude over the potential of harming himself or his loved ones in the sketchy process.
Another instance of courage is when Atticus is standing up for Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape. The citizens of Maycomb head downtown and approach the courthouse, where they demand to see Tom. When Scout finds her father at the courthouse she describes him as, “I thought he would have a fine surprise, but his face killed my joy, a flash of plain fear was going out of his eyes, but returned when Dill and Jem wriggled into the light”. Through Scout’s eyes, it appears to her that her dad’s facial expression is serious and concerned; this has killed some of the innocence inside her as she starts to realize the whole world isn’t all the happy place it seems. Scout realizes her father’s facial expression is grim but is still unable to figure out why, despite the anger and hatred across the sea of townspeople. Her dad appears to be petrified from fear as he sees a potentially fatal situation: his children seriously injured or killed, alongside him. Despite being incredibly terrified in dealing with a violent mob, he is reminded of how he should conduct himself as a role model. Atticus must overcome his fear of the situation he is in not only for him but for his two children at his side. Atticus realizes that if he does not define himself as a challenging figure unwilling to leave and give the vicious horde the right of passage, Tom’s safety would be in jeopardy. Atticus must also think to himself in the moment how his actions could affect how his children perceive the right way to act is.
The best example of Atticus’ demonstrating courage can be summarized in the courthouse scene. As the townspeople enter the courthouse, whites first, a person sitting near Scout and Jem mention that Atticus is only here to defend a black man because he is obligated to by his job as an attorney. Scout overhears Billy, a man she sits next to in the courthouse, responding to his comment, “Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That’s what I don’t like about it.’ This was news, news that put a different light on things: Atticus had to, whether he wanted to or not. I thought it odd that he hadn’t said anything to us about it — we could have used it many times in defending him and ourselves”. The citizens of Maycomb have contrasting views about Atticus defending Tom Robinson. One argues that he is obliged to and the other, Billy, simply makes an excuse to why Atticus is defending Tom. Scout is thinking to herself about the situation and realizes he did not defend Tom simply because he wanted to; it is his job. Due to her innocence, she does not interpret the town’s point of view; who see that Atticus does not have an obligation to take the case seriously, as h should defending a white man. Atticus may have a responsibility to defend Tom, but ultimately still shares the same motivation to defend a black man as he does a white man. Atticus puts a fair trial over any prejudiced views the town might have. He makes a stand for how he feels people should be treated, contrary to what the common thought process at the time: that blacks do not deserve the same rights to a trial as whites.
Atticus did not tell his family about his obligation to defend Tom because he wanted Jem and Scout to see through the fact that it was his job and recognize that it is simply apart of treating everybody with equality. Scout mentions that they could have defended themselves by saying that it was his job, implying the family’s reputation has been attacked over Atticus’ stance in the court case. Atticus could have told his children that he was doing it because it was his obligation but kept the reason why he was defending him to himself. In a small town where everybody knows everybody’s reputation, Atticus boldly accepts that he and his family will be known for associating and defending for what many see as an inferior race. Many characters throughout To Kill A Mockingbird demonstrate great courage, however, Atticus presents the strongest figure of external courage; putting down a rabies-infected dog, standing up to a violent mob and upholding strong moral integrity in court. Atticus demonstrates himself as a great role model; being not only courageous but standing up for his morals and acting selflessly for the safety and well-being of others. Overcoming personal, internal obstacles are important, but Atticus proves that demonstrating external courage builds character and shows others how they can be courageous. Although this book took place nearly 60 years ago, Harper Lee’s lessons through Atticus can still be used to build to better ourselves even today.
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