Jem and Scout learn tolerance and courage from their interactions with their racist neighbor Mrs. Dubose in chapter 11 of the novel. Mrs. Dubose is the community's most notorious, obnoxious racist, and she continually makes rude remarks to the Finch children when they pass her home. Atticus teaches his children the importance of tolerance by explaining to them that they should not blame Mrs. Dubose for her comments and actions. Atticus tells Jem,
Easy does it, son . . . 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 (Lee, 103).
Instead of criticizing Mrs. Dubose and viewing her with contempt, Atticus exercises tolerance by smiling at her and saying,
Good evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening (Lee, 103).
After Mrs. Dubose makes several racist, derogatory comments about Atticus, Jem destroys her camellia bush in a fit of anger. As punishment, Atticus makes Jem read to her for an hour each day, six days a week, for the entire month. Shortly after Jem's punishment is over, Mrs. Dubose passes away, and Atticus reveals that she was addicted to morphine. He explains that her last wish was to conquer her morphine addiction before she died in order to be free and "leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody." He refers to Mrs. Dubose as the bravest person he's ever met, because she conquered her addiction before she passed away, knowing that she would not survive. Atticus tells his children,
I wanted you to see something about her—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. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her (Lee, 115).