Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What is the normal routine when Jem goes to read to Mrs. Dubose?

Expert Answers

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

After Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bush in a fit of anger, Atticus makes him read to her for an hour after school for six days out of the week for an entire month. Scout usually accompanies Jem to Mrs. Dubose's home and the children are let in by her black servant, Jessie. Jem and Scout then pull up chairs next to Mrs. Dubose's bed and he proceeds to read Ivanhoe aloud. For the first twenty minutes of reading, Mrs. Dubose does not allow Jem to skip a word and corrects every mistake until she gradually drifts away and loses consciousness. Once her alarm rings, Jessie comes in to give her medication and the children leave.

This pattern continues and with each session, Mrs. Dubose stays up longer to correct Jem's mistakes and seems more attentive before she drifts off. By the end of the month, Mrs. Dubose is able to remain attentive during the entire session and the children finally notice that each session lasts longer than an hour. Mrs. Dubose passes away a short time after Jem's punishment is over and Atticus explains to the children that she was the bravest person he's ever met. Atticus tells the children that Mrs. Dubose's final wish was to conquer her morphine addiction, and Jem's reading distracted her between her doses of morphine. Essentially, Jem's reading helped Mrs. Dubose break her morphine addiction.

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

Jem destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellias in a fit of rage.  As penance, he must read to her for two hours a day, six days a week.  Each day, Jem and Scout go to Mrs. Dubose's house with a book.  When they first arrived every day, "Mrs. Dubose would hound Jem for a while on her favorite subjects" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11).  These topics were also two of Jem's least favorites.  She talked with disgust about how Atticus Finch was defending a black man.  She also talked about the camellias Jem had destroyed.  Eventually she became silent and seemed to drift off into a world in her own mind.  Eventually, an alarm clock would sound and her hired woman would come in and dismiss them.  She mentioned that it was time for Mrs. Dubose to take her medicine.

Time went on and this routine continued.  The alarm clock sounded later and later in the day.  The children never left before the alarm clock went off, so they stayed longer and longer each day.

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