On a boring Monday morning, my English teacher started off the class period by asking us a question.
The question’s wording was deceptively normal; it began with an inquiring W-word, and ended in a noun. For a sentence of merely three words, it instinctively caught my eye for brain-work and deep-thinking. The question was “What is courage?” I thought for a few minutes and realized that I didn’t know the answer. My teacher herded the cacophonous group of students towards another subject before we could get too out of hand, but my mind was still on the question. We began reading our new novel and I momentarily tucked my thoughts of courage into the back of my mind to be mulled over later. Being the bibliomaniac that I am, I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it.
I reached chapter eleven of To Kill A Mockingbird (authored by Harper Lee) and my teacher’s question returned. What is courage? In the story, one of the main character’s pinpoints courage as “a man with a gun in his hand.” (116) The boy views his father as courageous because he was able to dispatch a mad dog with one shot. After examining the mentally of the character, I could understand how seeing someone do something that they don’t want to do, but they must do for the sake of a community as courage. What I find most mind-boggling is that it does take bravery to complete this act of protection, but does it take courage? Courage reappears in the story a little further on after an old woman fought off and addiction to a drug she had been taking so she could die ‘clean’. The narrator’s father says courage is “when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
” (116) After pondering this second idea of what courage is, I chanced upon an intriguing point of view. What if courage is both the man with the gun, and the elderly woman fighting off her addiction? My second question satisfied my brain as an answer to the first question for awhile, but soon that seven-letter C-word crept through my neural pathways once more. I looked in a Merriam-Webster dictionary and found the definition of the word that has now been plaguing my mind for days. The dictionary said “mental or moral strength to venture, preserve, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” It made me think back to the incident where the man shot the mad dog to save the community he lived in.
He had the mental and moral strength to withstand danger, and possibly fear. He was courageous. Then my thoughts drifted to the dying woman who weaned herself off of her addiction before she died. She definitely had the mental and moral strength to withstand fear, difficulty, and danger. Danger? you might wonder, what danger? It was the danger that she might not succeed in her quest.
To resolve the issue, courage is the ability to stand up against yourself, and change your ways; because, in the end, all that matters is how you view yourself, and how you believe in yourself; and that takes real courage.