To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written by Harper Lee in 1960. The characters and plot are based on Lee’s observations of her neighbors, family, and events that occurred near her hometown in 1936. The novel is best known for its warmth and humor despite dealing with serious issues. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with rape and inequality yet still provides moral and ethical themes and lessons. Atticus Finch, the narrator’s father, serves as a moral hero and ideal lawyer for the readers.
To Kill a Mockingbird has every theme you could possibly think of in one well written book. The primary themes involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Additionally, class issues, courage, compassion and gender roles are also discussed in the book. There are many famous quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird such as, “That’s why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird” and “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” However, my favorite quote is not as famous as the previous quotes. Instead, it is this:
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
Before I discuss the quote, I would like to explain my experience with the novel. I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in ninth grade. Ninth grade English class was when I decided I wanted to be an English major. It was because of this book that my fascination with literature developed.
When I read this book in high school, I absolutely idolized Atticus Finch. I wished there were more people in the world like this fictional character. Atticus Finch perfectly displays morals, intellect, character, and wisdom. He was, in most ways, what I wanted to become.
However, Atticus was not the only character in the book that affected me. Almost every character, in some way, had an impact on me. Each character had their own obstacles and dilemmas to overcome and in each case, I learned something new from them. In each lesson in To Kill a Mockingbird comes a great quote. It was difficult to choose just one quote. But the quote bolded above struck my liking the most.
Everyone has their own definition of courage. For some people, courage is crawling into the mouth of a lion or (more practically) going to war and fighting for your country. However, Lee introduced a new idea of courage to me. Courage is knowing you will lose before you begin-yet still trying anyways. This is a difficult concept to grasp. Knowing you will not succeed but still continue with the task is a contradicting idea. Referencing the book, losing (the case for Atticus and the drug addiction for Mrs. Dubose) was inevitable. But in the end, in some way, the characters won. Although they lost in the sense of the term, they won personally, ethically, and mentally.
Before reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I always viewed courage as an idealized form of masculinity. Now, I am not afraid to be defeated. Winning and courage aren’t always represented in literal ways. Winning and courage are personal achievements defined within ourselves.