What is shocking about Mrs. Dubose's language when she expresses her attitude about Atticus defending a black man in To Kill a Mockingbird?Key quotations and in-depth explanations would help.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Although the children of Maycomb fear the acid-tongued Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, Atticus treats her with neighborly respect when he passes her house.

     ... Atticus would sweep off his hat, wave gallantly to her, and say, "Good evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening."
     I never heard Atticus say like a picture of what.

Mrs. Dubose obviously respects Atticus as well, since we find out later in the chapter that she has entrusted him with making out her will. You would never know it, however, from the way she speaks of him when she screams at Jem and Scout from her front porch.Referring to Scout as "you ugly girl," Mrs. Dubose then "terrified" her, warning that she will end up waiting on tables at the O. K. Cafe. But Mrs. Dubose had saved her biggest insult for Atticus.

"You're father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!"

Her racist language is not really surprising, since she had grown up during the Civil War and probably remembered the days of slavery in ante-bellum Alabama. She was from an older generation not ready to accept the changing ways of the times. But the insulting manner in which she spoke to Atticus is surprising, considering his own mannerly disposition toward her, and her own decision to hire his legal services. Of course, as Atticus explains to Jem later, it was only the morphine talking--the terrible addiction which she had not yet kicked when she angered Jem and Scout.

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