At the end of chapter 11 why is Jem holding the white camellia?Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Punished by his father after cutting the blossoms from Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes because she insulted his parent and the dignity of his family, Jem has spent a month and a week reading to her after school and on Saturdays. 

One day Mrs. Dubose says to Jem,

"Thought you could kill my Snow-on-the-Mountain, did you?  Well, Jessie says the top's growing back out.  Next time you'll know how to do it right, won't you?  You'll pull it up by the roots, won't you?"

Then, before she dies, Mrs. Dubose has Jessie, her maid, prepare a box, placing in it a perfect white camellia, a Snow-on-the-Mountain.  This pristine, white flower is a representative of the regeneration of her pretty flowers that she has so loved.  Perhaps, this flower symbolizes the spirit of Mrs. Dubose that cannot be quelled by the morphine that she has taken for such a long time.  For, she has chosen to renew herself by withdrawing from the drug before death claims her.  Like the white flower, Mrs. Dubose has purified herself; she has also forgiven Jem, and the flower is a symbol of this renewal, as well.  Thoughtfully, Jem fingers the white petals as he comprehends what it signifies.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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