After cutting Mrs. Dubose’s camellia buds, Atticus asks Jem, “Are you responsible for this?” “Yes sir.” “Why’d you do it?” Jem said softly, “She said you lawed for n****** and trash” (Lee 138).Atticus explains to Jem, “She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody. Jem when you’re sick as she was, it’s all right to take anything to make it easier, but it wasn’t all right for her. She said she meant to break herself of it before she died, and that’s what she did” (Lee 148).
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Atticus sees what most people do not in Mrs. Dubose. Where people see a morphine addicted nasty old lady, Atticus sees a lady who had a difficult life trying to die with a shred of dignity. One of my favourite lines from Atticus, and there are many, is when he tries to explain this to his kids,
"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 you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
Mrs. Dubose was a lonely old lady who numbed the pain of many years the only way she could. In the end she battled her addiction and found room in her heart to let two children, Scout and Jem, into her life.