What request does Mrs. Dubose make of Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird?  Is this a fair punishment for his "crime"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes with Scout's new baton, she demands that he come to read for her "out loud for two hours" each day after school and on Saturday for one month. Naturally, Jem does not want to spend any more time at all with the old lady, but Atticus is adamant about Jem fulfilling her wish. When Jem asks, "Atticus, do I have to," he responds, "Certainly." In the end, Jem was requested to spend one additional week, and again Atticus told him in no uncertain terms that he would continue for "Just one more week, son." What Jem did not know was that he was helping Mrs. Dubose to break the morphine addiction that she so wanted to rid herself before she died.

Was it a fair punishment? I'm sure it seemed like a long stretch to Jem for such a short display of anger and destruction, but it fulfilled Mrs. Dubose's desire--and the camellias survived as well. Jem learned a lesson about losing his temper, and as the years passed, I'm sure he was proud of the accomplishment.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Jem cuts all the blossoms off of her flowers, Mrs. Dubose asks that he and Scout should be required to come to her house quite often.  She asks that they come six times each week for a month.  Every time that they come, they will have to read to her for a couple of hours.

This makes sense to me.  If a kid does something out of hatred for someone (and hurts that person) it seems that forcing them to spend more time with the person is a good idea.  It might possibly teach them to care more about that person.  If so, that would make it not just a punishment, but a good way of improving the way the treat other people.

zumba96 | Student

Jem cuts off the blossoms and plans to punish him by making him spend time with her by reading a book. Maybe she thought that they would hate her less but her actions seemed otherwise. She was always rude to Jem and Scout and also their father, however, Atticus told the children to behave respectfully because it just looks bad on the person who is being rude, not them. 

petey900 | Student

Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes with Scout's new baton. She requests that Jem do something in return. Jem says ‘“She wants me to come every afternoon after school and Saturdays and read to her out loud for two hours”’ (Lee 105). Mrs. Dubose wants Jem to read to her for one month for two hours every day except Sunday. Jem asks Atticus “‘Atticus do I have to?’” (Lee 105). The reader can infer that Jem does not want to do this or spend any time with Mrs. Dubose. Was it a fair punishment; I think it was. If someone does a destructive act in hate, having them spend more time with that person might be a good thing. Having Jem spend more time with Mrs. Dubose might make him hate Mrs. Dubose a little less.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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