The historical novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, is set in racially prejudiced Maycomb, Alabama in the nineteen thirties. Atticus' greatest act of courage was taking on the Tom Robinson case. To Jem and Scout, courage was "a man with a gun in his hand"(149). The children thought of Atticus' one-shot kill of the mad dog as a tour de force. In this case, Atticus was not trying to prove anything and therefore is the wrong definition of courage. Atticus defined real courage as when "you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what"(149). Atticus' greatest act of courage was his choice to defend Tom Robinson to the best of his ability; he knew beforehand that he would lose, but he still tried his hardest by standing his moral as well as physical ground.
Fully aware of the society and times in which he lived, Atticus knew that he would lose the case. Atticus knew that in defending Tom Robinson, he had everything to lose, but he was prepared to undertake the herculean task of defending Tom. He understood that his efforts would ultimately be in vain but when Scout asked Atticus if he would win the case, Atticus replied saying "noÃ¢ÂÂ¦[but]simply because we're licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win"(101). In this quote, Atticus clearly portrays his determination to fight for Tom Robinson even though all logic concluded that the battle had been lost and there would be no use fighting. When the jury came back to the courtroom, Scout stated that "it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger,