Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. ~ C.S. Lewis
One of my favorite scenes from The Hunger Games movie is the moment Katniss prepares to enter the tube that will carry her into the arena and the battle for her life. Jennifer Lawrence plays the part to perfection, giving us a Katniss who physically shakes with anticipation, but maintains her silent strength. The movie made me think a lot about courage–that essential virtue that, as C.S. Lewis says, forms the foundation for all the rest.


But what does it mean to have courage? And is it truly the quintessential virtue of a hero or heroine? I think so. When I envision all the characters I love and admire–from books and from real life–they almost always embody courage in one form or another. Virtue itself is often defined as those traits of moral excellence that enable one to live a “fully human life.”
That’s why courage is about more than being bold. Surely Katniss is that…but then again, so is Cato. Courage is not simply bravery, but the ability to maintain one’s humanity even in the most dire circumstances. The courageous person does not lack fear, but they do not act from a place where fear is the prime motivator. A heroine like Katniss embodies courage by siding with the weak and vulnerable, taking time to honor the grave of a fallen friend, and finding a “third way” among the oppressive Capitol’s limited choices of “kill or be killed.”

From courage, all the other virtues spring…compassion, prudence, justice. But what does courage mean to you? I’d be interested in hearing about other heroes from literature and history that people find courageous…

2 thoughts on “Courage: The Testing Point

  1. I often wonder how I’d act in similar situations to some of these literary heros. We all hope we would be the courageous one. Maybe that is why we like to live vicariously through the characters we read about (or watch in the case of movies). Could I ever be as courageous as Sydney Carton in a “Tale of Two Cities” who gives his life for Darnay? Probably not, but it’s certainly powerful to read about.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I am very interested in how books “teach” character. I don’t know how I’d act in extreme situations either, but I think it’s helpful to have heroes in my head who at least provide an example…ideally, I’d hope that the most powerful stories became such a part of me that the courageous action is at least a little more instinctive than if I’d never read the stories at all.

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