“She was. She had her own views about things, a lot different from mine, maybe… son, I told you that if you hadn’t lost your head I’d have made you go read to her. I wanted you to see something about her—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.”
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He is describing Mrs. DuBose, a woman who fought pain for many years. Her pain-killer was morphine; we see her in the story in the throes of withdrawal from her morphine addiction, but as she approached her death, she wanted to feel attached to no one, even an addiction to a drug. The explanation is that this woman showed more courage as she fought her demons than anyone ever could with a gun and some kind of threatening posture. He is trying to teach Jem a lesson.