Explorations: my author blog

Courage in YA literature, part 2: integrity

Here is a quote that always bothered me:

…courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, cited in http://beinggoodnews.com/2012/01/21/c-s-lewis-on-how-courage-ranks-among-the-virtues/

Another well-known author reiterates Lewis’s point in simpler language:

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. (Maya Angelou, quoted in http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mayaangelo120859.html.

What do these authors mean by this? Do they mean we all have to be Gryffindors, or, heaven help us, Dauntless, in order to be good people? And is it even true? Do you have to be brave before you can be consistently loving, or generous, or humble? Couldn’t it work the other way around, so that practicing one of these other virtues could lead you to bravery? 

Fear and Courage in YA Literature (part 1)

On the concept of courage in literature for teens.


There’s a well known book many kids in the U.S. read when they are about 13 or 14 – I did. This quote stayed with me all my life:

"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. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
- spoken by Atticus Finch, by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (Cited in http://classiclit.about.com/od/finchatticus/a/aa_atticusquote.htm)

As those who have read the book know, the bravest person Atticus Finch ever knew was a cranky old lady dying of cancer, and determined to die without becoming addicted to morphine. Mrs. Dubose certainly was brave. But would she have made it into Dauntless?


The more I think about the world of Divergent, the more bothered I get by the way courage is presented. I’ve got other problems with the worldbuilding, but I’m going to focus just on this question for the moment. What is courage, and what is fear?