Why do Atticus and his children get such different reactions from Mrs. Dubose?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 11, Scout laments the way Mrs. Dubose routinely criticizes her and Jem each time they walk by her home. Mrs. Dubose is a cantankerous, old racist, who makes numerous derogatory remarks directed at Jem and Scout. Despite her negative disposition towards the Finch children, she seems to treat Atticus with much more respect. At the beginning of the chapter, Scout mentions that Mrs. Dubose once said that she pitied Atticus for losing his wife because she was the loveliest lady. Whenever Atticus walks by her home, he always takes off his hat and compliments her. She more than likely appreciates how Atticus shows her respect on an everyday basis, and she also employed him to write her will. Unlike Atticus, the children do not go out of their way to compliment Mrs. Dubose. Mrs. Dubose is also a traditionalist and disapproves of the way Scout dresses and acts, similar to Aunt Alexandra. Atticus is mature enough to accept Mrs. Dubose as simply an old, sick woman, while his children view her as a malevolent force. Essentially, Mrs. Dubose feels more comfortable criticizing young, defenseless children than she does a respectful, grown man.

cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose certainly treated Atticus Finch differently than she treated his children.  Mrs. Dubose treated Atticus with respect and took a great amount of pride in revealing her accomplishments to him, while she treated his children with harshness and what seemed to be inconsideration.  The reason for Mrs. Dubose's favorable treatment of Atticus was his kind and respectful attitude toward her; Atticus was repaid in kind for his treatment of her.  Atticus knew about Mrs. Dubose's addiction to morphine and not only did not judge her for it, but was greatly impressed by her success in freeing herself of it despite the suffering it must have caused her.  On the other hand, Mrs. Dubose must have been aware of the children's opinions of her and reacted to it with anger; had Mrs. Dubose truly hated the Finch children, though, she would not have requested Jem's company on any pretenses.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question