Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
This quote belongs to Atticus and is very important, because it concludes a serious event in the novel and helps young Jem to learn an essential lesson of his life. Almost a young adult, Jem now faces all the social expectations and stereotypes that are connected with the men. Atticus uses this talk to show him that the real courage isn’t always connected with the external signs of it, like pointing a gun or entering a fight. According to Atticus, courage is a decision and it begins when a person decides to do something that may do them no good, just because they feel that they are doing what is right. Courage is standing against all odds and staying faithful to one’s decision no matter what. The example Atticus illustrates his speech with is also as far from the conventional image of courage as Jem can imagine.
Atticus talks about Mrs. Dubose, a grumpy and lonely old lady with a sharp tongue she used against everyone who tried to offend her or plainly showed less respect than she wanted. Neither Jem nor Scout liked Mrs. Dubose and when she died they didn’t grieve too much. But now Atticus tells them the full story of the deceased woman: she was fighting a terminal illness that caused her very intense pain. Mrs. Dubose had to take morphine to ease the pain. But she understood that she became dependent and willingly decided to stop taking the painkiller, dying a grumpy and easily irritable but a free woman. Atticus tells about her with great respect and his kids, surprised, realize that their neighbor, who wasn’t courageous by any means, as they thought, was brave enough to endure the incredible pain for her own freedom.