Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:07:09 AM
A typical portrait of courage most often consists of an act of heroism regarding physical strength, a perilous task, and a nearly superhuman type of person. A middle aged lawyer partaking in a trail hardly conjures up an image deserving of the label “courageous”. However, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird reveals the latter to require far more bravery in what is perhaps the most dangerous task of all; standing up against the masses. In this novel, Atticus Finch, a southern lawyer and father of two, is appointed the impossible task of defending a black man accused of rape to an all-white jury of prejudiced men. Rather than poorly defend this innocent man, Atticus puts all of his effort into this trial despite the adversity and hateful judgment that he and his family now face from the brainless lemmings of Maycomb County, Alabama. This ability to pursue what is right in the face of such outspoken public opposition is far more courageous than any act of physical valor.
Atticus’ flawless defense of Tom Robinson, the innocent accused, makes it plain and obvious that the trial is nothing more than an act of blatant prejudice and racism. The evidence points to the necessity of Tom’s acquittal, but nonetheless, the stubborn jury convicts him. Though persistent in his efforts, the town’s bigotry is too deep-seeded to overcome. Atticus’ nonconformity is not completely lost on society, however. His struggle against popular opinion has an overwhelming effect on his children, Jem and Scout, who through observing their father’s actions, come to develop their own sense of morality, free from the prejudice of their surroundings. Atticus’ defiance of the biased norm also sparks a change in Mr. Underwood, a newspaper publisher and previous racist, who, inspired by Atticus, recognizes the fault in convicting blameless Tom Robinson and makes an attempt at self-reform.
All too often the thought of the individual is bent in the direction of public opinion, no matter the morality of the issue at hand. But it is those who can rise above this lazy predisposition towards conformity that have the power to impact society. It’s easy to follow what others think, being agreeable and inconspicuous makes for less trouble, but it takes a great deal of mental strength and bravery to come up out of the background and fight for an unpopular cause. To Kill a Mockingbird helped to instill in me a sense of self conviction and an understanding of the importance of the individual. I now have a greater belief in my own ideals and, thanks to this classic novel, the courage to stand up for them. I see the idea of courage in a completely different light. Just as Atticus said, “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what” (Lee). Courage is perseverance. Courage is morality and individuality. Courage is a middle aged lawyer named Atticus Finch.