What makes the children hate and fear Mrs. Dubose in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Early in Chapter 4 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout the narrator announces that the neighborhood unanimously felt Mrs. Dubose to be the "meanest old woman who ever lived." She was so mean that when the Finch children were younger, they were afraid to walk past her house without Atticus by their side. However, by the time they are a little older in Chapter 11, they decide it is time to start venturing into town by themselves and must pass her house in order to do so. In Chapter 11, we learn that the children, though a little older, continue to hate and fear Mrs. Dubose because of the many criticisms and insults she hurls at them each time they walk past.

One reason why they fear her is because "it was rumored that she kept a CSA pistol concealed" on her at all times. They further fear and hate her because they could do nothing to please her. Scout notes that even if she cheerfully said, "Hey, Mrs. Dubose," while passing her house, all Scout would get in reply is, "Don't you say hey to me, you ugly girl! You say good afternoon, Mrs. Dubose!" (Ch. 11). She further insults the children by calling them the "sassiest, most disrespectful mutts" in the neighborhood and criticizes Atticus's parenting style, saying he lets them "run wild." However, she makes the children the angriest, especially Jem, when she one day says, "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" This comment leads Jem to seek vengeance by whacking off all the camellia flowers in her garden, a vengeful act that is restituted through his punishment of being ordered to read to her each afternoon. Yet, through his interactions with Mrs. Dubose, he learns tolerance, acceptance, and a valuable lesson about what true courage is.

Kathryn Draney eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • The children hate and fear Mrs. Dubose because she insults and criticizes them whenever they walk past her house.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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