How does Atticus advise to react to Mrs.Dubose's taunts in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus wants his children to behave politely to Mrs. Dubose, no matter how she insults them.

Mrs. Dubose is a mean lady described as “plain hell” by Scout.  She shouts insults at the Finch children as they pass by, even before their father defends Tom Robinson.  Once the trial commotion starts, the insults become racial and directed at their father.  This annoys Jem.

As with Scout, Atticus’s advice to Jem is to not let things get to his head.  He wants Jem to behave, even if she doesn’t.

"Easy does it, son," Atticus would say. "She's an old lady and she's ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it's your job not to let her make you mad." (ch 11)

Atticus thought that Scout would be the one he would have trouble with, not Jem.  Although Jem is older, he gets angry enough at Mrs. Dubose that he snaps.  He destroys her flowers, and Atticus makes him apologize and spend time reading to Mrs. Dubose.  He later explains that she was trying to kick her morphine habit, and she was the bravest person he knew.  He wanted Jem to see true bravery.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 11, Jem and Scout interact with their ornery, racist neighbor, Mrs. Dubose. Mrs. Dubose is an unapologetic racist, who continually ridicules Jem and Scout when they walk past her home. Mrs. Dubose always tells the children that they will amount to nothing when they grow up and is constantly accusing them of misbehaving. Mrs. Dubose refers to the children as "disrespectful mutts" and blames Atticus for letting them run wild. Scout mentions that Mrs. Dubose would routinely upset Jem, and Atticus would have to settle him down in the evenings. Atticus advises Jem to hold his head up high and act like a gentleman whenever Mrs. Dubose says something disrespectful. He tells Jem not to respond and urges him to be polite at all times. Unfortunately, Jem cannot control his anger when Mrs. Dubose criticizes Atticus, and he ends up destroying her camellia bush.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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