In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells the children the cause of Mrs. Dubose's fits. How does Jem's reading help her?

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mrwickline eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout Chapter 11, the mean-spirited Mrs. Dubose hurls insults at Jem and Scout on their way to the store. After Mrs. Dubose mentions how Jem’s father is “no better than the niggers and trash he works for,” Jem loses his cool and ruins her camellia bushes with Scout’s new baton. As a punishment, Mrs. Dubose requests that Jem read to her every weekday after school, and Saturday for two hours. Every session begins the same way, with Mrs. Dubose correcting Jem and insulting the children, until she eventually nods off into a fit.  Jessie would walk in after the alarm sounded and give Mrs. Dubose her medication as the kids left. Each day, Jem and Scout unknowingly stay a little longer reading to Mrs. Dubose, until her fits stop and she is able to stay awake, critiquing Jem for the entire session. After Mrs. Dubose passes, Atticus explains that she was addicted to morphine. Jem’s reading acted as a distraction and allowed her to withstand longer periods of time without using morphine. After a month and a week, Mrs. Dubose had kicked her habit.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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