The Ingredients of Perfect Courage

By Pamela Tarajcak

When Major Briggs was being questioned by Windom Earle, he said that his greatest fear was the possibility that love was not enough. What if he is right? What if love is not enough to endure the trials of the Lodges? What constructs perfect courage? Love certainly is one of three crucial ingredients to constitute perfect courage. The other two are: a faith in something and a hope for something. Laura had perfect courage, which led to her eventual angel and cathartic release at the end of Fire Walk With Me. But Cooper lacked perfect courage which led to his soul being annihilated (read: split irrevocably into too many forms). Both had love, but one had faith and hope, the other didn’t.


Both Laura and Dale expressed love in various ways. They of course loved through romantic love: Laura with Bobby and James, Cooper through Caroline and Annie. They loved their friends. Laura did everything possible, including a very harsh form of tough love, to steer Donna away from her destructive life. Cooper accepted his coworkers in the Bureau just as they are.

They did acts of kindnesses to their neighbors. Dale almost innately through his Boy Scout persona. Laura performed her charity through Meals on Wheels and her helping Johnny Horne. Even though she felt she had to do this to keep herself clean and to purge herself of her dirt, there still was empathy behind all of her acts of kindness: feeling sorry for the elderly person, who had no means of getting a meal and having a kindred feeling with Johnny. So though these acts were guilt tinged, they were done with love. Therefore, both had love in spades.


Here is what separates the two characters into the perfect and imperfect courage catagories. Laura had a sureness about her. Yes, she constantly questioned who was under the BOB guise but otherwise, through her diary we see her going through her torturous live with resolve. She never questions why this is happening to her nor does she question the justness of her being abused while others are living such wonderful lives around her.
Rev. Brocklehurst described her as headstrong and bold. She was more than that, she just lived her life. She soldiered on through all of the evil deeds done to her. Nor does she ever doubt herself. Though she thought of herself as dirty and not good, caused by her abuser’s grooming of her, she was very sure of herself in other ways. Even in her dream sequence, she was very sure with what was going on, even when an injured Annie appeared in her bed. Finally, it takes great reliance on something else to know instinctively to put on that ring in the train car and to actually put a strange painting on a bedroom wall.

Cooper, on the other hand, is filled with questions. Being a doubter is not a bad thing, if tempered with some surety. But he questions everything, even things he needn’t, like the Kennedy questions at the beginning of the series or what happened to the Lindburgh baby. Not only does he question the Giant but doubts every word the Giant says later, having to have the clues proven to him. In the end,Dale’s doubting caused Laura to have to basically solve her own murder because of Cooper’s lack of resolve.

He doubts every action he’s ever done including the end result of what happened to him with the Earles. He can’t admit that somehow Windom manipulated the whole thing to drive Cooper crazy. This is proved when he took all the blame on himself. He doubts himself and all the good that he did when Jean Renault claims that Cooper is the cause of all the horror that happened in the town. He again doubts himself, and the truth, that he wasn’t the cause of the evil in the town. He is a constant doubter. Even in the Lodge, he is shocked and unsure of where he is. The blank or confused look on his face throughout his Lodge test prove this.


Laura had hope. Though there was this doomed feeling oozing throughout all her diary and her story, there is a hope there. She always felt that if she could keep on moving, keep on staying awake, keep on persevering things will remain alright and BOB will remain at bay. Of course, she was surprised when that didn’t work. Even when she was nearing the end of her tether, she didn’t give up on making plans, including going through her Meals on Wheels route. When she sought comfort at the Haywards, there is a return to hope that she only momentarily lost. The only time that she may have lost hope completely, was when the Angel disappeared from her painting. Even before that, even when writing in her diary that tonight was the night that I die, she kept on making plans, even with James to meet in the woods. She kept on making plans up until the end.

Going to make plans with Bobby

Dale though lacks hope. Through the previous two examples of Renault and Pittsburgh showed that Cooper fell into despair too many times. Both Blue Rosers were worried when Cooper got shot because they felt that was an eerie reminder of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was when Earle claimed that he brought the boy almost to the edge that time. That meant that he almost succeeded in driving Cooper to a depth that he couldn’t emerge from. In his Autobiography, there were times when tragedy struck Cooper and he could barely emerge from it, or he would disappear for times on end to recollect himself from the depths which he had to emerge out of. He fell into shadow too easily. He lacked hope when Renault gave him that load of lies, as if he felt that he was truly done for. Maybe he even lacked hope during his Lodge trial as if he knew he couldn’t (or maybe didn’t want to) get out, especially when the Lodge recreated Pittsburgh for him in a sense.

Is this the key? Is this the reason why Laura gets her Angel in Fire Walk With Me and Dale is eternally never whole again? Are these three ingredients what truly constitute perfect courage, a love for others, a faith in something (even in yourself), and a hope (a perseverance) for something?

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