To Kill a Mockingbird, What does Atticus want to teach Jem when he encounters Mrs. Dubose?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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To Kill A Mockingbird

Atticus is an amazing father. He knows what his children need, and tries his best to provide it. In this case, he wanted Jem to know the meaning of true courage. He did not want Jem growing up with a false understanding of what courage is, such as a man holding a gun. True courage is being able to do what is right, even if it is difficult, even if you will most likely lose. 

Mrs. Dubose provided an example of this. She wanted to beat her addiction to Morphine before she died. So, even though she was living in great pain, she did it. This act took amazing courage. Atticus was hoping that Jem would see this aspect in Mrs. Dubose, as he spent time with her. In the book, Atticus is quite explicit about this point. He says:

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. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”

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