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Mrs. Dubose was a "very old" woman with a mean temperament and a harsh tongue. She was rumored to keep an old Confederate pistol at her side, and Jem and Scout were always "raked by her wrathful gaze" as she sat in her wheelchair on her porch. Mrs. Dubose made "ruthless" comments about the children's behavior and how they would amount to "nothing" when they grew up. They gave up walking across the street to avoid her, since she would only raise her voice to yell at them. She called Scout an "ugly girl," and referred to the children as sassy "mutts." She made unkind comments about Atticus and how he allowed his children to "run wild." However, those remarks seemed pretty tame when compared to the ones that made Jem lose his temper and destroy her camellia bushes.
Mrs. Dubose represents the way most of the town feels about the trial. She is an old woman who continuously yells at Jem and Scout as they pass by her house. The children are afraid of her because of the yelling and they are afraid that she might actually call to them. Jem and Scout usually just ignore her, but they don't like her very much.
Mrs. Dubose makes a nasty comment to Jem and Scout about Atticus being just like the blacks by taking Tom's case. When Jem hears this he becomes angry. He destroys her bushes in a fit of anger. Atticus has warned Jem to be a gentleman with her, but Jem lets his anger get the better of him. As a punishment Jem has to go and read to her everyday after school. This makes Scout dislike her even more because she feels that Mrs. Dubose has taken away her time with Jem. Scout goes with Jem as he reads to her. Mrs. Dubose is a woman in her nineties, and unknown to Jem and Scout, has an addiction to morphine. Mrs. Dubose has vowed to get off of it before she dies. She uses Jem as a way to help keep her mind off the medicine for longer periods of time, until she can finally die addiction free.
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand, it's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
Atticus says this to Jem because he wants him and Scout to realize what kind of person Mrs. Dubose really is. He admires the old woman and wants his children to see the real Mrs. Dubose. He teaches them that you don't always have to like someone to admire and respect them, and that is exactly what Jem and Scout learn from Mrs. Dubose.
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