The Different Capes of Different Heroes

By Katie Z., 8th Grade

August 2015

Merriam-Webster defines courage as the ability to do something one knows is difficult or dangerous. Not to insult Merriam-Webster or anything, but Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird has a better definition. He explains that courage involves taking risks that may end in failure. A courageous person would follow his or her principles no matter the cost. In the book, Atticus Finch, Mrs. Dubose, and Boo Radley demonstrate that courage is not only doing something that is dangerous or difficult, but even knowing that they won’t win.

Atticus Finch shows courage by taking on the Tom Robinson case, even though he knows that he will lose.After his case he says, “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life. […] The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box” (38-40). The courtroom is made up of people from Maycomb County, a racist community. Whether or not Tom Robinson is or isn’t guilty, he will be convicted because of the deep rooted racism in the county. Atticus knows  this, and is well aware of the fact that he is going to lose the case. However, he chooses to take the case anyway, because that’s what he believes in.  

Independence is a value  Mrs. Dubose holds above all else, and her fight to be free of  morphine addiction shows Mrs. Dubose’s courage. As Atticus puts it, “Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody” (112). While Ms. Dubose is no Captain America or Superman, she is a hero too. Even though she is an angry, racist old woman, she stands up for her principles.Throughout her lifetime, Mrs. Dubose seeks  the “help” of  morphine. She chooses to cut loose her addiction, although she knows that she will die regardless of whether or not she’s an addict.  She shows that people don’t always have to wear capes or win the Nobel Peace Prize in order to be courageous or heroic.

Finally, Boo Radley, though not a typical hero, also shows courage by killing Bob Ewell in order to save Scout and Jem. Locked up, he doesn’t have any friends since the Radleys are foot-washing baptists. “Foot-washers believe anything that’s pleasure is a sin. Did you know some of ’em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me me and my flowers were going to hell?” (44)  Boo’s family doesn’t believe in happiness. Consequently, Nathan Radley cuts off any and all communication with the outside world, including Boo’s attempt to befriend Scout and Jem. Boo has the courage to disobey his brother when Scout and Jem are in danger. He charges outside armed with a kitchen knife and stabs Mr. Ewell. Boo knows that killing Bob Ewell will  result in getting locked up forever and possible publicity risks. He saves the children that he loves, all the while knowing that he will never be able to have a real friendship with them.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus teaches his children that courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. Instead, courage means standing up for one’s principles even though it may result in failure. Mrs. Dubose, Boo Radley, and Atticus himself are all an example of this lesson. These characters also show that Batman or The Flash aren’t the only types of heroes. They show that standing up for what one believes in, no matter what, is courage and heroism. They all wear a different type of cape.

One thought on “The Different Capes of Different Heroes

  1. Zachary

    Good job Katie on your essay. I think the introduction packs some punch and I think you have a good definition of courage. Even though I have not read To Kill a Mockingbird , the claim and evidence for the first paragraph are strong. The only opinion or question I have is “how is Mrs. Dubious courageous for trying to quit her addiction?” I also was confused in the passage talking about Boo Radley. You claim that he saved two people, but the evidence strays. All in all, thoughtful essay that is entertaining to read. I think I want to read this book now.

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