These novels have characters who display courage, bravery, or heroism, usually by taking a stand against popular opinion and following the urging of their conscience.
See also The Holocaust
For novels more focused on the physical side of this theme see War | Military
Novels with Courageous, Heroic, or Brave Characters
Shogun | James du Maresq Clavell
It is feudal Japan in the 1600s, and John Blackthorne is an English sailor leading his ship to break up the Jesuit trade monopoly in the Far East. He and his crew are captured with Blackthorne pressed into the service of a feudal lord. He becomes enmeshed in Japanese politics and learns much about the culture.
Lord Jim | Joseph Conrad
Jim is standing trial for his dishonorable actions aboard the Patna, an endangered ship with eight hundred passengers. He eventually ends up on Patusan, an island. Jim gets involved in the local hostilities, and becomes important to the natives.
“’And after all, one does not die of it.’ ‘Die of what?’ I asked swiftly. ‘Of being afraid.’”
The Chocolate War| Robert Cormier
Jerry Renault is a student at a private, all-male Catholic high school in New England. He’s trying out for the football team, but not doing very well. To raise funds, the school is having a chocolate sale, but Jerry refuses to participate, causing a stir among the students. Meanwhile, there is a secret student organization, the Vigils, that organizes pranks and other disruptions, who are given an assignment by the headmaster.
To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee
Scout and Jem Finch are growing up in small-town Alabama. They have a reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley, who is the subject of rumor and speculation in the town. Their father, a lawyer named Atticus, agrees to represent a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman.
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
In the Time of the Butterflies | Julia Alvarez
The Mirabal sisters narrate their family’s story in the Dominican Republic from 1938 to 1994. Rafael Trujillo is the cruel dictator who exercises control over all his citizens. The sisters become involved in revolutionary activities against Trujillo.
Out of Africa | Isak Dinesen
Dinesen owns a coffee plantation in Nairobi. It is home to the East Africans who farm the land. She muses on the landscape, and presents character sketches of many people she comes to know.
Bless the Beasts and Children | Glendon Swarthout
John Cotton is a teenage counselor at the Box Canyon Boys Camp. He has a dream where he and his charges, as buffalos, are taken into a corral and slaughtered. His group of boys are known as the “Bedwetters”, the ones who were left over after the camp members formed groups. The boys were traumatized by something earlier that day that they won’t discuss. Cotton and his boys decide to leave the camp and set out on a quest to help right the wrong that they witnessed.
Number the Stars | Lois Lowry
It is Denmark in the 1940s under German occupation. Electricity and other daily items are rationed. Jewish shops are being closed, and lists of names are being compiled for arrest. The Johansen family takes in Ellen, a young Jewish girl who is a friend of their daughter, Annemarie.
Anthem | Ayn Rand
Equality 7-2521 lives in a state-controlled, collectivist society where individual thoughts are forbidden. One day, he found a shaft leading to a remnant of the old times. He uses this secret space to conduct experiments and learn as much as he can. He notices a woman, the Golden One, and they fall in love, which also puts them at risk.
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