In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what commitment does Jem make to atone for the destruction of Mrs. Dubose's property?
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Mrs. Dubose is the cranky old woman who lives two doors up the street from Jem and Scout. She is a nuisance to the neighborhood and frequently calls out insults to the siblings as they pass her house. Although the children learn to tolerate her nasty words, Jem becomes enraged when Mrs. Dubose insults Atticus for defending Tom Robinson in court.
To get revenge, Jem grabs Scout's baton and cuts the tops off of Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes. Atticus orders Jem to go talk to Mrs. Dubose in order to work out a punishment for this crime. To atone for his destruction, Jem must clean up Mrs. Dubose's yard, work on the camellia bushes every Saturday to make them grow back, and read to the woman for two hours every afternoon (Monday through Saturday) for one month.
This is a tough punishment for Jem, but he manages to survive it and even helps Mrs. Dubose kick her morphine addiction in the process.
Jem, after having chopped the buds off of Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes, is told in a face-to-face meeting with her that he is to read to her every afternoon for a month, and that he is to do yard work for her as recompense for the destruction he caused. Atticus reinforces this "sentence." Jem's actions were prompted by Mrs. Dubose's comments about Atticus; that is, she told the children (Scout and Jem) that Atticus was bad or wrong for defending Tom Robinson, and that he allowed them, as children, to "run wild" unsupervised. After her comments, Jem was prompted to take revenge on the one thing she valued most, her flowers.
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