Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How is the Golden Rule illustrated in chapter 11?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Chapter 11 in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is an excellent example of the Golden Rule, to treat others as you want to be treated.

In chapter 11, the children's relationship with their neighbor Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is explained. Mrs. Dubose is quite racist and often yells mean things at Scout and Jem when they walk by her house. She also believes strongly in the Confederate government and is believed to keep a pistol hidden in her shawl whenever she sits on her porch.

Despite the racist comments and yelling that Mrs. Dubose uses as her greeting to the Finch family each time they walk by her house, Atticus Finch teaches his children to treat her with respect because she is "just a sick, old lady." Atticus always tips his hat to Mrs. Dubose and wishes her a good day, even after she calls him horrible names and even though their opinions on most topics are very different. Atticus believes so strongly in the importance of treating others how he would want to be treated that he requires Jem to spend time reading to Mrs. Dubose.

Atticus understands the importance of kindness in a world full of so much hatred, and he encourages his children to live by the Golden Rule as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Golden Rule states that you should treat others the way you would want to be treated. In chapter eleven, Jem becomes furious after his racist neighbor makes derogatory remarks about Atticus, and he retaliates by destroying her beautiful camellia bush. Despite the fact that Mrs. Dubose is an unapologetic racist who verbally abuses the Finch children on a regular basis, Atticus utilizes the Golden Rule by making his son read to her for two hours each day for an entire month in order to help her conquer her morphine addiction. Atticus could have easily dismissed his son's actions and argued that Jem's behavior was justified; however, he chooses to exercise tolerance and compassion by helping Mrs. Dubose. Atticus tells his children that they should sympathize with Mrs. Dubose because she is old and ill. He then demonstrates the Golden Rule by helping her conquer her morphine addiction before she passes away. By treating Mrs. Dubose with the kindness and compassion that he would want to be treated with, Atticus makes use of the Golden Rule in chapter eleven.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team