It was Robert G. Ingersoll who once said; “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. ” In other words, he is trying to convey to us that in life, it is how we deal with our failures, and not the actions we take during our high points that matter most. This is because who we are and how we act during our lows are what define us as people. In accordance with this quote, two examples in which this idea occurs constantly are Lorraine Hansberry’s controversial play, A Raisin in the Sun, and Harper Lee’s renowned novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Let’s delve into these pieces of literature to thrust Ingersoll’s philosophy into light. A Raisin in the Sun portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the1950s. The Youngers live in a world where prejudice and racial ignorance have a grip on the masses, making their life very difficult. After the death of Mrs. Younger’s (or Mama) beloved husband, an insurance check finally comes to them for about 10,000 dollars.
Confident that his plan of opening a liquor store will solve the Younger’s financial issues thus far, Walter Younger took it upon himself to invest most of his money into opening his store with two of his colleagues. In a terrible turn of events, one of his partners took off with all of the money Walter invested, leaving him with nothing. After this catastrophic mistake, Walter feels at an all time low. With temptation coming from Mr. Linder to give up their dream of moving into a permanent house for a bribe, Walter almost budges and submits, but at the last minute, he has an epiphany.
He realizes that his family’s pride and honor cannot be bought, and he rejected Mr. Linder’s bribe, and the Youngers made the bold move into Clybourne Park, an all-white neighborhood, with their heads held high, and looking positively into the future. Walter’s wife, Ruth gets a massive blow when she is stunned by an unexpected pregnancy. In the Younger’s current situation, Ruth having a baby would be completely detrimental to their already crumbling financial situation.
Her resolve was tested by the easy way out when she was tempted to go to an abortion clinic. As this possibility and all of the stress from the pregnancy was building up on Ruth’s already troubled mind, she felt very lost. After Walter found out about the pregnancy (And Ruth’s planning of an abortion), he became very upset with his wife, saying that an abortion was not the answer, and he believed that even if brining a new life into a troubled situation would be difficult, he said that it was a challenge worth taking on.
Walter’s bravery when facing Mr. Linder inspired Ruth to take her hardship head on and do the right thing instead of taking a defeat with a defeated honor. To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around Scout Finch, who lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus, in the sleepy Alabama town of Maycomb. Near the beginning of the story, Atticus is assigned a virtually impossible case, in the defense of a black man (Tom Robinson) accused of raping and battering a white woman (Mayella Ewell).
Unlike most everybody else in town, Atticus can look beyond the color of Tom’s skin and truly see Tom’s innocence and decency. Taking a bold stance in the case, he fights with every iota of his being to bring into light Tom’s innocence and the flaws of the prosecution, who’s entire argument was based on circumstantial evidence and racial advantages (white vs. black in a racially prejudiced milieu). Although Atticus made an excellent defense, the jury still found Tom guilty.
Atticus was completely crushed, but he nonetheless held his head high and showed optimism when he told Tom they still had another chance. To show appreciation for all of Atticus’ effort and dignity in the case, the African American balcony had a standing ovation for Atticus to honor his job well done, and this shows a perfect example of a defeat showing a test of courage. On the other end of this spectrum, we have Tom Robinson, who was actually the focus of this court case.
Just trying to offer friendly assistance to a woman in need, tom frequently offered a helping to Mayella Ewell, who comes from a very unfortunate family situation, financially and abuse wise. Eventually, Mayella fell in love with Tom, and then pursued him, but Tom being a decent married man rejected. In a sudden twist, this scenario turned into Tom raping Mayella and the entire community turning on him. After a rigorous trial, the jury, as we know, found Tom guilty. In this defeat, Tom attempted to escape the officers and make a run for it.
His resolve was shattered by his defeat, and he ended up paying his life for it. Perhaps if he had waited for the second trial, he may have been found innocent. As proven again and again in these two works and many others, “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. ” All thorough history this statement has been proven to be true. We must always remember that it is how we present ourselves during our worst times, and this is what defines us.
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