In “To Kill a Mockingbird” how does Atticus advise Jem to react to Mrs. Dubose’s taunts?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus advises Jem to react to Mrs. Dubose's taunts - to be patient and keep his temper when Mrs. Dubose taunts him. Atticus tells Jem that he must learn to "climb into her skin and walk around in it" to understand her behavior. He also says that Mrs. Dubose is a very sick woman who is trying to die free of her addiction to morphine and that Jem should be compassionate toward her. Atticus believes that Mrs. Dubose's taunts are a result of her fear of dying and that Jem should not take them personally.
Detailed answer:

In "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus advises Jem to react to Mrs. Dubose's taunts with compassion and empathy. Atticus tells Jem that Mrs. Dubose is battling a morphine addiction, and her outbursts are a result of her withdrawal symptoms. Atticus explains, "She's an old lady and she's ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it's your job not to let her make you mad" (Chapter 11).

Atticus teaches Jem an important lesson about understanding and kindness. He encourages Jem to be patient and considerate towards Mrs. Dubose, despite her hurtful words. Atticus believes that it's important to see the best in people and not judge them based on their actions alone. He tells Jem, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (Chapter 3).

Later in the story, Jem learns the true reason for Mrs. Dubose's behavior when Atticus tells him about her struggle with addiction and her determination to overcome it before her death. Atticus explains to Jem, "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what" (Chapter 11).

Atticus' advice teaches Jem the importance of empathy, understanding, and perseverance. It's a powerful lesson that stays with Jem and helps shape his character throughout the rest of the novel.

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