How does Harper Lee juxtapose Chapters 10 and 11 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Harper Lee's decision to juxtapose Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 illuminates the difference between what children view as courage, and what Atticus refers to as "real courage." In Chapter 10, Atticus displays his marksmanship abilities by shooting and killing a rabid dog that is wandering down the main road of Maycomb. After witnessing Atticus's deadly accuracy, Jem and Scout are in awe of their father. They never knew Atticus was the deadliest shot in Maycomb, and Miss Maudie explains why Atticus never bragged about his talent. Jem and Scout admire Atticus's courage to shoot the rabid dog, and Scout mentions to Jem that she cannot wait to brag to her friends about Atticus. In Chapter 10, both Scout and Jem have a skewed perception of what courage is after seeing Atticus kill the dog.

In Chapter 11, Atticus makes Jem read to Mrs. Dubose for a month after he loses his temper and destroys her camellia bush. At the end of the chapter, Mrs. Dubose passes away, and Atticus explains to his children that she was addicted to morphine. He then tells Jem and Scout that her last wish on earth was to "leave this world beholden nothing to nobody" (69). The doctors told Mrs. Dubose that she only had a few months to live, and Mrs. Dubose was able to break her morphine addiction with the help of Jem's daily reading sessions. Atticus tells his children Mrs. Dubose was the bravest person he ever met and says,

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 (70).

Atticus teaches Jem and Scout an important life lesson in Chapter 11, which Lee enhances by juxtaposing two separate incidents involving what individuals perceive as courage.

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mrwickline | High School Teacher | In Training Educator

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Harper Lee juxtaposes what Jem and Scout think is courage, to what Atticus says the true meaning of courage actually is. In Chapter 10, Atticus reluctantly shoots a rabid dog that was wandering throughout Maycomb. Jem and Scout are amazed at their father’s marksmanship ability and courage, and want to brag about it at school. In Chapter 11, Lee uses the story of Mrs. Dubose’s battle against her morphine addiction, and her determination to “kick” her addiction, as another, different example of courage. Atticus tells his children that the true meaning of courage is "when you know you're licked before you begin..." (Lee 112). Atticus believes that real courage is not using a gun, but fighting for a cause, even if it’s one you know you will probably lose.

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