Study Guide

Mortal Engines Courage

By Philip Reeve


There are courageous teens all over the place in fiction: Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. Those kids dying of cancer in The Fault in Our Stars. While there are always exceptions and doubts, most of the time, acts of courage make people feel good. Yay! I'm brave! That type of thing.

In Mortal Engines, it doesn't seem like anyone ever feels good. Courage in this world usually means killing someone who's trying to kill you, or blowing up your enemies before they can mount an attack. These courageous acts have consequences (see "Guilt and Blame" and "Violence" for example), consequences that might make you feel like you're not such a hero, after all.

Questions About Courage

  1. Can Valentine be considered courageous, even if he is doing what some consider evil deeds?
  2. Why is Tom so desperate to be a hero?
  3. If Hester has nothing to lose, can she be considered courageous? Or does courage depend on danger and sacrifice?

Chew on This

Courage is about making hard decisions. Tom goes against his moral code when he kills Grike, or when he fires missiles at Valentine's airship. He's not only courageous against the world; he's courageous with himself

Courage is about making the wrong decisions. Tom mistakes guilt for courage when, in a surge of adrenaline, he strikes out and kills people. Only when the adrenaline fades does the guilt set in.