When jem ruins her flowers
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Atticus makes Jem go to Mrs. Dubose's house and apologize to her in person. Scout and Atticus discuss the necessity of keeping one's head even when times get hard. Atticus explains that he has to follow his conscience, no matter what anyone else in the town says. Jem returns from Mrs. Dubose's house. Atticus tells him one can't hold a sick old lady responsible for what she says. Jem explains that Mrs. Dubose wants him to read out loud to her every afternoon for a full month.
Atticus wants the children to understand that courage has to do with the fight for one's personal goals, no matter what the odds are against achieving the goal. Heroism consists of the fight itself, the struggle against fate, circumstance, or any other overpowering force. Mrs. Dubose's goal is to break free from her addiction to morphine. Her struggle against the clock and mortality is easily compared to Atticus's struggle to uphold his own morals despite the hopelessness of his case and the lack of support he has in town. According to Atticus's definition, he and Mrs. Dubose are both brave, even heroic, and he wants the children to follow their example. Even though Mrs. Dubose is a mean and bigoted old woman, she does have good qualities that demand respect. Atticus wants the children to see that though many of the townspeople are ignorant and racist, they also have personal strengths and are not fundamentally bad people.