How does Harper Lee lead us to develop some sympathy for Mrs. Dubose in the course of Chapter 11 of To Kill a Mockingbird? 

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's hard not to feel some sympathy for a little old lady who is obviously very sick, even if it is the pistol-packing, unrepentant racist Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose. She has become too sick to spend time on her beloved porch, where she can comment on the activities of the neighborhood and curse at the children. Even though she "was horrible," her advanced age and illness slowly began to weaken the once-angry children. Even though Jem and Scout have not forgotten that Mrs. Dubose has called Atticus a "nigger-lover," he tell them not to let her "get you down. She has enough troubles of her own." They also witnessed her smiling and speaking nicely to Atticus when he came to visit. But it was not until Mrs. Dubose died that Atticus revealed her secret: that she was a longtime morphine addict and had been going cold turkey to beat her habit before she died. Jem seems happy that the old lady died free "As the mountain air," and although he is upset about the present of the prize camellia that she left for him, it appears he will treasure the gift--at least for a while.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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