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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What does Mrs. Dubose say about Jem and Scout's mother and how does Jem react?

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At the beginning of Chapter 11, Scout mentions that Mrs. Dubose would continually insult them and their father any time they passed her house. Mrs. Dubose says that she pitied Atticus after his wife died. Mrs. Dubose comments that their mother was the loveliest lady who ever lived and it was heartbreaking to watch Atticus let his children run wild. Scout goes on to mention that she didn't remember her mother, but Jem did. Anytime Mrs. Dubose would bring up their mother Jem would become "livid." Jem loves his mother and would occasionally tell Scout stories about her. Jem becomes extremely defensive whenever someone brings her up, especially Mrs. Dubose. Mrs. Dubose's comment about Jem's mother hurts him deeply, and Scout can easily see that he is furious. One Saturday while the children are walking to the store, Mrs. Dubose makes several derogatory comments about Atticus and says if Jem's mother were still alive, their family would not have come to such moral degeneration. Her comments about Atticus and his mother send Jem over the edge, and he retaliates by ruining her camellia bush.

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She insults the Finches. On page 102 as Jem and Scout are walking home, Mrs. Dubose begins hurling commentary at them. Lee observes, " . . . we were followed up the sidewalk by a philippic on our family's moral degeneration, the major premise of which was that half the Finches were in the asylum anyway, but if our mother were living we would not have to come to such a state" (102). This is just too much for Jem, who has already put up with Mrs. Dubose telling him that his father is no better than the black people he defends. When Mrs. Dubose implies that Atticus is doing a poor job as a parent and that his mother would never let him defend Tom Robinson, Jem loses it.

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Mrs. Dubose says that a "lovelier lady than the [children's] mother never lived." And she comments that it is a shame the way Atticus lets the kids carry on in such a wild fashion now that their mother is gone. The book also states that Jem was "livid" about what she had said.

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Mrs. Dubose compliments Jem and Scout's mother. She says that there was no lovelier woman than Mrs. Finch.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Dubose adds a negative comment after she praises Mrs. Finch. She remarks that the manner in which Atticus raises Jem and Scout is "heartbreaking" because he lets his children "run wild." When Jem hears this derogatory remark, he becomes greatly angered. However, in his usual sanguine manner, Atticus ignores this insult, instructing his son to do the same and also to be considerate because Mrs. Dubose is old and ill. Whenever Atticus passes Mrs. Dubose's house and she is outside, he tips his hat and compliments her, saying, "Good evening, Mrs. Dubose! You look like a picture this evening." Not only does Atticus have a complimentary greeting for her, but he also provides Mrs. Dubose with the courthouse news. After doing this, Atticus wishes her well for the next day. He swings Scout to his shoulders, and he and his children continue toward home. Scout comments that at such times as these, she feels that her father is "the bravest man who ever lived" (chapter 11).

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