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Chapter 11

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 11 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is a nasty woman who harasses Jem and Scout every time they walk past her house. Her behavior eventually pushes Jem to his breaking point. When Mrs. Dubose rudely criticizes Atticus for defending Tom Robinson, Jem returns and destroys her camellia bushes with Scout's baton.

That evening Atticus sends Jem to apologize to Mrs. Dubose for his actions. He promises to come every Saturday to tend the bushes, but Mrs. Dubose insists he come every day for the next month to read to her.

For the next month, accompanied by Scout, Jem treks to Mrs. Dubose's house. Even though Mrs. Dubose continues making snide remarks about Atticus, Jem reads to her until she falls asleep. Shortly after Jem finishes his month-long sentence of reading to her, Mrs. Dubose dies. Atticus reveals that she had been addicted to morphine but had made a commitment to beat her addiction. Her vile behavior and mood swings were a side effect of withdrawal. Atticus wanted Jem and Scout to see the courage of her fight, even if it meant a painful death.

Analysis

This chapter illustrates the parallel between Mrs. Dubose's fight to beat her addiction, however painful it is, and Atticus's fight for a less racist world. Both Mrs. Dubose and Atticus know they are going to lose their fights yet take them on anyway. Scout and Jem are completely baffled as to why Atticus would take on a case he knows he's going to lose, but Atticus explains that losing is not a good enough reason not to try.

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