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Old Mrs. Dubose makes "vicious" comments to Jem and Scout nearly every time they pass her house. Even when Scout "sunnily" greets her, Mrs. Dubose retaliates with an insult. The old lady particularly infuriates Jem when she mentions the children's mother, but Atticus always tells Jem to "hold your head high and be a gentleman." But Jem could not contain himself one Saturday when he and Scout passed by. Mrs. Dubose accused them of playing "hooky"; when they explained that there was no school on weekends, she sailed into them again. After insulting Scout for wearing overalls and for probably facing a future of "waiting on tables at the O. K. Cafe," she directed her fury on Atticus.
"Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one in the courthouse lawing for niggers!...
"... Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" (Chapter 11)
It was this last remark that triggered Jem's destruction of Mrs. Dubose's prized camellias.
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