What do Mrs. Dubose camellias symbolize in this story?Why does she give Jem a snow on the mountain right before she dies?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 11, Jem cannot control his anger after listening to Mrs. Dubose's racist comments directed at his father, and he ends up destroying her camellia bush. As punishment for his behavior, Atticus makes Jem read to Mrs. Dubose for two hours a day, except on Sundays. Jem ends up reading to Mrs. Dubose for a little over a month, which is just enough time for her to conquer her morphine addiction. Unknown to Jem, Mrs. Dubose was struggling with a chronic illness and wanted to die addiction-free. Jem's reading helped occupy Mrs. Dubose's mind in between her doses of morphine. Before she passed away, Mrs. Dubose told Atticus to give Jem a present from her. Jem opens up the candy box to find a perfectly white camellia inside.

In my opinion, Mrs. Dubose's camellia symbolizes forgiveness and hope. Initially, Jem destroys the camellia bush, which represents Mrs. Dubose and her racist, hateful ideology. However, Jem will learn that in order to thrive in Alabama, he must learn to forgive and have hope for a better future. Allegorically, Jem's attack on the white camellia bush can represent his initial reaction to encountering prejudice. However, Mrs. Dubose's gift represents the power of forgiveness, love, and hope. The white camellia will remind Jem of approaching ignorance and hate with love and patience.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's an interesting question, and I don't think we will ever know for sure unless we ask Harper Lee directly.

In my opinion, they represent a form of innocence lost. Jem was provoked to cut down all of those camellias by Mrs. Dubose saying something mean about his father. In great revenge, Jem cut them down. He was making a statement. Remember, this occurs in chapter 11, by chapter 12 Calpurnia is calling him "Mister Jem". Jem knew it was wrong, he knew it was a great sin to destroy someone else's belongings but he just snapped in a passionate sense of justice for his father. This moment separated Jem fromĀ a childhood of ignorance, and an adolescence of knowing more than he should.

I think she gave Jem a flower in rememberance of the innocence of childhood. I think this could have also been a moment of forgiveness although Jem in his immaturity took it as a haunting.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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