Moral Courage in To Kill A MockingBird
Moral courage is crucial in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Moral courage is doing something that is right, despite how difficult it may be. In the setting of To Kill A Mockingbird, there is an immense lack of social justice. The lack of social justice increases the need for moral courage. Many characters throughout the novel express their courage through their words and through their actions. Atticus Finch is the most distinguished example of a character who shows moral courage. Atticus always tries to do what is right, no matter who disagrees with him. Other characters in the novel that express moral courage are: Miss Maudie Atkinson, Mr. Underwood, and Mr. Heck Tate. Miss Maudie expressed moral courage when she stands up for what is right regardless of how it may make other people think or feel about her. Mr. Underwood shows moral courage when he writes an editorial about how someone was wrongfully convicted. Mr. Heck Tate is an example of moral courage when he lies to defend Boo Radley, who is innocent. Through their actions, these characters express moral courage throughout Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.
"Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have” (Ronald Reagan, 1981). Moral courage is doing something that is right regardless of what other people may think or feel. Although moral courage is powerful and crucial in today’s world, it is something that is very rare. In Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird, moral courage is illustrated through some of the character's thoughts and actions. The setting of Harper Lee's novel increases the need for moral courage in the characters. The novel is set in the South in the early 1900s. During this time, the South is racially segregated. In this novel there is an immense need for social justice and moral courage. Some of the characters in the novel express moral courage. In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, moral courage is illustrated through characters like Atticus Finch, Miss Maudie Atkinson, Mr. Underwood, and Mr. Heck Tate.
In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is a character who expresses moral courage despite the resentment of society. For example, Atticus defends Tom Robinson, a black man, who is wrongly accused of rape. Atticus says, “...there’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man… This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends” (Lee 1960, p. 75-76). Atticus is the lawyer for a rape accusation case of a white man versus a black man. The people in his community believe that Atticus should not defend Tom Robinson. By defending Tom Robinson, Atticus does what is right and goes against his community. Defending Tom Robinson is a huge act of moral courage. Atticus knows that the people in his community think he should not defend Tom; however, he also knows that it would not be right if he did not defend him. Furthermore, Atticus quit shooting his gun. Miss Maudie says,“I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things” ( Lee 1960, p. 98). Atticus is known to have the “deadest shot” in Maycomb; however, he quit shooting. Atticus quit shooting because he feels as if it is wrong and unjust. Not shooting his gun is another act of moral courage from Atticus. Atticus knows that he has an advantage over the things he would be shooting, so he gave it up. Once again, Atticus does the right thing despite how it affects him. Also, Atticus sat outside of Tom Robinson's jail cell to protect him. Harper Lee (1960) says, “Atticus was sitting propped against the front door… ‘You can turn around and go home again Walter…’ ” (p. 151). Atticus sits outside of the jail cell because he knows a group of men are coming for Tom Robinson. Atticus knows that the men intend to harm him. Atticus stays there to protect Tom Robinson because he is defenseless. This is an act of moral courage because Atticus could have been harmed. Atticus jeopardized his own safety in order to protect Tom Robinson. Also, Harper Lee illustrates moral courage through Miss Maudie Atkinson, Mr. B.B. Underwood, and Mr. Heck Tate.
Furthermore, in To Kill A Mockingbird, Miss Maudie, Mr. B.B. Underwood, and Mr. Heck Tate expresses moral courage. For example, Miss Maudie does not go to Tom Robinson's trial. Miss Maudie says, ¨I am not. ‘t’s morbid, watching a poor devil on trial for his life. Look at all those folks, it’s like a Roman carnival¨ (Lee, 1960, p. 159). Everyone in Maycomb is excited to see Tom Robinson get convicted; however, Miss Maudie is not taking any part in Tom's trial. Miss Maudie is one of the few people in town who believe Tom Robinson should not be convicted. She decides not to go to the trial because she knows he will be found guilty. Miss Maudie shows moral courage because she believes in what is right no matter who is involved. Also, Mr. B.B. Underwood writes an editorial about Tom Robinson's death. Harper Lee (1960) says, “He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children” (p. 241). In his editorial, Mr. Underwood is judging the town for Toms Robinson's death. Mr. Underwood wrote the editorial because he is upset about Tom's death; he calls it a sin. Mr. Underwood shows moral courage because he speaks out against the town for what is right. Another example is when Mr. Heck Tate covers up what happened to Bob Ewell. Mr. Heck Tate says, “Mr. Finch, taking the one who's done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight- to me, that’s a sin” (Lee, 1960, p. 276). Mr. Heck Tate lies about how Bob died to protect Boo Radley. Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell to protect Jem and Scout. Mr. Heck Tate does not believe Boo should suffer for what he did. While it may be legally wrong to lie about Bob's death, it is morally right.By doing this, Mr. Heck Tate reveals moral courage. In summary, Harper Lee illustrates moral courage through Miss Maudie, Mr. B.B. Underwood, and Mr. Heck Tate.