To Kill a Mockingbird is not about killing birds or animal cruelty, as the name might suggest, but about the courage necessary to follow ones morals and resist the community’s undying hatred and prejudice to Negroes. One character in particular that portrays this courage is Atticus. Harper Lee shows Atticus’ bravery time and time again, never ceasing to surprise her readers with new situations of increasing severity. Never showing any sign that he is in difficulty, Atticus shows courage by standing for his beliefs, never hesitating when he knows his course, and not going with the town’s endless flow of racism.
Atticus consistently stood firm while defending his beliefs and morals but never allowed himself to succumb to the temptation of fist fights or verbal abuse. He always took what came his way and calmly attempted to negotiate or make the other party reconsider their actions. His belief was that all people, black and white, were equals. Throughout the story it was evident that he was not just full of words, but meant them all. This is proven by keeping Calpurnia, their black housekeeper, hired for so long. He never once considered her any less than a working class human. He also accepted Tom Robinson’s case.
He took the case, fought as hard as he could, and even though Tom was a Negro, it took the jury two hours to come to a consensus, which means, he instilled a little bit of doubt into them. This is a massive accomplishment. To be able to give the word of a black man in court so much power back then was unheard of. Miss Maudie even said, “He (Atticus Finch) can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out like that. ” (238) He never once hesitated to do any of these things, which brings me to my next point. When time was of the essence and there was a clear route to take, Atticus would take it without a second thought.
If he thought something was right he would make sure it was protected as soon as he could, without another thought. It is shown when he killed the dog; if somebody else would’ve taken the shot, he wouldn’t have, but because he was the only one there with good enough aim, he had to kill it. His motions when he went to kill Tim Johnson the dog were described as, “… movements so swift they seemed simultaneous, Atticus’ hand yanked a ball tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder” (106). Another instance that Atticus didn’t hesitate, was when, he thought Jem was the killer of Bob Ewell.
The sheriff, Heck, kept telling Atticus that Bob fell on his knife even though it was Arthur Radley. Atticus thought it was just Heck trying to be nice and insisted that there be trial for Jem. Atticus got straight to the point when it happened. He said the, “… it’ll come before county court” (300). He never slowed his pace which is important, because that shows that he does not go with the flow on any moral or habitual situations. Atticus did not go with the flow. Instead, he drew his own map, his own path that was made by himself for himself.
He was to make every decision by himself, with little or no influence from the rest of the society. Again he displays this by having Calpurnia as a house keeper and fighting for Jem’s trial where an average man would accept Heck’s generosity. The time when he sat by Tom’s cell all night is really what got through to me. It must’ve taken more courage than is believable. Given those circumstances, I would’ve gone running away with a tail between my legs, but not Atticus. He spent an entire night outside of Maycomb’s county jail to ensure the safety of Tom Robinson when he expected there to be a lynching mob.
He was right, there was a planned lynching, and there were many men there to kill Tom. When the men arrived Atticus just, “… closed it (his newspaper), folded it deliberately, dropped it in his lap, and pushed his hat to the back of his head. ” (166) If it were not for Atticus, Tom would have died far sooner. This showed just how determined Atticus was to protect what he believed in and how hard he would resist the ‘flow’ of society. It’s because of these three attributes that I believe Atticus is the most courageous character in the book.
After all of this he still did not show any signs of weakness, proving that Atticus was always content with his life as a whole. This makes it evident that if you fight for what you believe in, you’ll always feel better about yourself. If you beat the odds you feel amazing, and if you lose, at least you know you went all out for the cause you stand for. During the entire novel, Atticus had to try and prove the town wrong. He even put the doubt in the jury’s mind about a black man’s innocence! That is more than nearly anybody could say they achieved back in those days. -Steffy