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The quote about Mrs. Dubose's courage compares Atticus and Mrs. Dubose.
If you look at this from a different perspective, you will notice that when Atticus makes his comment about Mrs. Dubose’s courage, he is also talking about himself in a way. Both Atticus and Mrs. Dubose are showing more than physical courage when they confront their fears.
When Jem gets fed up with Mrs. Dubose’s insults and attacks her flowers, Atticus punishes him by having him make amends to her. Jem has to go spend time with her, reading to her and making her last days more manageable. The children do not know it yet, but Mrs. Dubose is suffering from morphine addiction and withdrawal. She is in a great deal of pain. She wants to die beholden to no one and nothing, so she wants to kick her addiction. She needs Jem’s reading as a distraction.
Mrs. Dubose is a mean old woman. The children have either been afraid of her or hated her for years. Scout first describes Mrs. Dubose as “plain hell” (Ch. 1).
Mrs. Dubose lived two doors up the street from us; neighborhood opinion was unanimous that Mrs. Dubose was the meanest old woman who ever lived. Jem wouldn’t go by her place without Atticus beside him. (Ch. 4)
You may be wondering then, what Atticus Finch, who seems to be one of the kindest men in the universe, would have in common with this mean old woman. What they have in common is that they both have to stand up to something. Atticus is standing up to the town, for something he believes in. He is defending Tom Robinson, even though he knows that the case is un-winnable. He does so because of the strength of his convictions. He believes in the criminal justice system. Everyone deserves their fair chance at the law.
Atticus’s courage is demonstrated in his ability to take on a case he knows he is going to lose, and face the town while doing it. He explains to Scout why he must do this.
“If you shouldn’t be defendin‘ him, then why are you doin’ it?”
“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.” (Ch. 9)
Atticus explains to Scout that knowing that you are going to lose is no reason not to fight. This is real courage. It may not be the physical kind, although Atticus certainly is physically threatened too, but it is a mental and moral courage.
Mrs. Dubose shows this same kind of courage in wanting to die on her own terms. After she is dead, and the children find out what she died of, Atticus explains to them whey he wanted them to see her dying.
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. (Ch. 11)
This quote serves as a good comparison of Mrs. Dubose and Atticuse. For Mrs. Dubose, her death was a victory because she died no longer addicted to morphine. Atticus wants his children to understand that. He knows that they have to realize that there are many kinds of courage, so that they will understand why he is doing what he is doing, and so that they will learn to stand up for what they believe in too.
Atticus Finch and Mrs. Dubose both serve as role models for Scout and Jem. They learn that things are not always what they seem through this experience. One thing is for sure—Scout realizes that people have secrets that you may not learn until it is too late to get to know them better.
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