The irritable Mrs.Henry Lafayette Dubose was angry after Jem nearly destroyed her camellias in Chapter 11 of To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, Mrs. Dubose had prompted Jem's action by calling him a liar, insulting Scout's femininity, and telling him that Atticus "was no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" Jem responded by chopping down the old woman's camellia bushes with Scout's new baton. After Atticus demanded that Jem apologize in person, Mrs. Dubose demanded that he read to her everyday after school and on Saturdays.
Was the punishment just? Probably so, and in the end, Jem probably realized it, too. What he didn't know during the long month of reading to the bedridden Mrs. Dubose was that her intent was for him to take her mind off her pain: She was going cold turkey after being addicted to morphine for years. She desired to die drug-free, and not long after Jem's punishment ended, she did just that.