To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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What is Atticus’s advice to Jem when Mrs. Dubose angers him in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When Jem complains that Mrs. Dubose says horrible things to them, Atticus tells him not to let it get to him.

Atticus gives Jem the following advice when he tells Atticus what Mrs. Dubose said about him.

“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." (ch 11)

Atticus wants both of his children to learn how to avoid a fight.  Mrs. Dubose insults the children by saying they run wild and complaining about Atticus defending a black man.  He stresses the fact that it is there job to react appropriately when people say things to them.  Mrs. Dubose is old and sick, and they should humor her to a certain extent.  He is basically telling Jem to be the better man.

Jem does not take his father's advice.   He attacks Mrs. Dubose's flowers in an act of rage, shocking Scout.  Atticus is surprised that it was Jem and not Scout who lost his head.

 

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lhurley2844 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Unfortunately for Scout and Jem, they must pass the home of Mrs. Dubose on their way to town. As they pass her home, she clearly communicates her feelings regarding the children. She feels that they will amount to little and that it's a shame that Atticus lets his children "run wild." When Jem becomes angry at the frequent insults hurled at him and Scout, Atticus counsels Jem to remain calm. He says to Jem, "hold your head high and be a gentleman." Atticus feels that Jem should not be angry with Mrs. Dubose because she is old and ill. As is often the case with Atticus, he models the behavior he hopes to see. He speaks politely to Mrs. Dubose, shares news with her, and wishes her well. At the end of their conversation, Atticus will frequently carry Scout home on his shoulders. Scout recalls that during those times, she would feel like her father was "the bravest man who ever lived."

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