The Interplay Between Courage and Moral Development – TKAM Critical

Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator in your chosen text about how acts of courage develop and nurture personal integrity. 

Many people believe it is crucial to protect children from the evils of our world to foster a positive childhood. Although partly true, it is sometimes necessary for children to witness some injustices and unfairness in society to develop courage, integrity, and maturity. Jem Finch, in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, further develops this point through various acts of courage and bravery in response to the adversities he witnessed throughout the novel, he eventually grew into a young boy of integrity, able to distinguish right from wrong. Lee actively elicits the ideology that through acts of courage, an individual can foster personal growth and, nurture one’s integrity. These difficulties an individual faces through their life allows them to respond courageously in an effective manner or to further learn from these circumstances thrown at them, eventually aiding in one’s moral development.

By looking at the beginning of Harper Lee’s novel, one can see that Jem lacks personal integrity yet, fosters the courage to do frightful acts. Consequently, the courage motif is first introduced when Dill dared Jem to touch the Radley Place. “Jem threw open the gate and sped to the side of the house, slapped it with his palm and ran back past us, not waiting to see if his foray was successful.” (18) Numerous children share suspicions surrounding this creepy place, which scares many to go close to it. Jem, however, overcomes his fear and runs to the side of the house, slaps it, and runs back without glancing behind him. The reader can learn that Jem does possess courage however, he uses it disrespectfully, lacking integrity. His father told him numerous times not to bother the Radley’s, but Jem disregarded his father’s pleas and continued causing havoc anyways. Although he is displaying courage, the reader can acknowledge that he is just an innocent boy having fun. He hasn’t necessarily grasped the idea that his actions have consequences. He hasn’t seen the challenges in society, which paired with courage, can lead an individual to nurture their integrity and further develop one’s morals. This is to say that before facing adversities, the necessity to use courage is non-existent, which encourages others to use of courage in an unnecessary, and sometimes disrespectful, way. 


When an individual starts to see some harsh realities of our world, they may respond with courage, which enables them to nurture personal integrity.  It becomes clear to readers that Jem is beginning to undergo this change during the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully convicted for raping a Caucasian girl. At the time, prejudice and racism were quite common, which made it controversial that Atticus, Jem’s white father, took on the courage to represent Tom in court.  When Robinson moved to the nearby jail, Jem had a feeling something bad was about to happen. It is then that he displays courage and walks down to the local jail where his father states, “‘Go home, Jem…’ ‘Take Scout and Dill home.’… Jem was not thinking of budging. ‘Go home, I said.’ Jem shook his head.” (203) His father insisted numerous times for Jem and the kids to go home, as Atticus was placed in a dangerous situation. Jem denied his father’s requests, displaying courage, as they were surrounded by a group of angry men. Now the reader can infer that Jem has put his courage towards a good cause because, as he is incapable of fighting a lynch mob of this size, he does not want to leave his father in this vulnerable position. He is standing in unity with his father against these prejudiced men in the middle of the night. This shows the development of Jem’s integrity as he knows the harsh consequences his dad may face once he leaves. He acknowledges that with him and the kids there, these men could not hurt Atticus. The author implies that through learning about the racism prevalent in Maycomb, Jem was able to begin the process of developing his integrity and moral values. Therefore, when an individual is faced with the difficult realities of the world and tough situations, their use of courage can help foster the growth of one’s morals.

The most important stage of any development in an individual’s life is putting what they learnt into practice regardless of how big or small they use their newfound knowledge. Although Jem displayed great courage throughout the novel, his integrity was nurtured from the middle. It is then near the end of the book that the reader can see him using this valuable moral in his day-to-day life. One night before bed, Scout found a roly-poly in the house and started playing with it. Right after being commanded to put it outside, she was about to smash it when Jem interfered and told her not to. “‘Why couldn’t I mash him’” Scout asked. “‘Because they don’t bother you.’ Jem answered in the darkness.”’ (320) Jem being older and wiser, directed Scout to leave this insect alone as it has done nothing wrong. Jem was finally able to use his nurtured integrity to save this bug as he realized the importance of protecting the innocent; a real test of his morals. He learnt this through the adversities faced by Tom Robinson, as he was an innocent man who did nothing wrong as well. Similarly, Maycomb had no regard for black lives as many don’t care for bugs either. Although Jem was unable to save Robinson, he was able to save this small insect. Furthermore, this bug was innocent, which connects to the motif of the Mockingbird, which symbolizes innocence throughout the novel. As Miss Maudie said at the beginning of the book, Atticus stopped shooting once “he realized that God has given him an unfair advantage over most living things.” (130) Jem conveys this moral in this situation, displaying much integrity as he looks up to Atticus as he is the epitome of a good man. It was through various courageous acts that Jem was able to develop into a “good man” with a good sense of integrity. That being so, one can determine that through courageous acts in response to difficulties, an individual can develop a stronger sense of morals and effectively put them into practice. 

In Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, she effectively demonstrates how various challenges can lead an individual to react with courage, thus, aiding in the development of their personal integrity. This abundance of courage is what initially helps Jem Finch to participate in actions that cause fear, which then allows him to stand his ground in difficult situations, to finally applying this skill to his everyday life. In conclusion, the reader can learn that emotional development stems from facing obstacles with courage. These difficulties are crucial to living a fulfilling and virtuous life to prevent an individual from suffering from a lack of courage, integrity, and maturity — living their lives in fear. 

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