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In To Kill a Mockingbird what does Atticus Finch’s partnership via the minor however crucial character Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose imply around the quality of his moral vision?


In To Kill a Mockingbird Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose embodies and also gives public voice to the values and attitudes of the Old South. The means the novel’s protagonist Atticus Finch responds to her suggests that he lacks the crucial perspective necessary to acexpertise the depth and also pervasiveness of his community’s racism.



Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird, chapter 11.

Text Type


Text Complexity

Grades 11-CCR complexity band.

For more indevelopment on text complexity view these sources from achievethecore.org.

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Common Core State Standards

ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3 (Analyze just how the writer unfolds an analysis or series of concepts or events.)ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4 (Determine the definition of words and phrases as they are offered in a text, consisting of figurative, connotative, and also technical meanings.)

Teacher’s Note

(Page numbers refer to the 1982 Grand also Central Publishing paperago edition.)

The publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 focused considerable attention on the moral vision of Atticus Finch. Readers who found him to be an exemplar of tolerance and courage in To Kill a Mockingbird were shocked to hear him voice racist views in Watchman. How could the character who was so enlightened in his original incarnation, set in the 1930s, become so bigoted in his second coming, collection in the 1950s? Readers and doubters scrutinized Mockingbird to watch if the Atticus that protected Tom Robinkid had the seeds of the Atticus that 20 years later joined the Klan-favor Citizens’ Council. They could profitably have focused on chapter eleven, for there we learn that Atticus suffers from a ethical blind spot, which prevents him from fully acknowledging his community’s racism. Examining that chapter, this leskid uses students the possibility to construct a vital perspective on Atticus’s judgment and also character.

At the outset it is critical to emphasize just how deeply embedded Atticus is in Maycomb. “He preferred Maycomb,” the narrator tells us at an early stage in the novel, “he was Maycomb County born and bred; he kbrand-new his people; they kbrand-new him…. Atticus was related by blood or marriage to practically eextremely family members in the town.” (p. 6) For Atticus the neighborhood of Maycomb is basically a web of personal relationships. On one hand also, this is commendable bereason it permits him to understand the town’s citizens as individuals and also to make allowances for their shortcomings and also foibles. On the various other hand also, yet, it is a trouble bereason it denies him the instrumental distance needed to location those shortcomings and also foibles in any larger moral conmessage.

We initially end up being aware of Atticus’s blind spot as soon as he explains the Robinkid situation to his brother. It is basically a shed cause thanks to “Maycomb’s usual condition.” “Why reasonable people go stark raving mad,” he laments, “when anypoint involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand.” (p. 117) This is a curious admission for the “Maycomb County born and also bred” lawyer that knows his world. It says a peculiar innocence in a thoughtful, well-review male who must recognize better. “Maycomb’s usual disease” has actually many type of causes, but sudepend, Atticus should be conscious of its historical roots, if for no various other reason than that a vocal embodiment of that background holds forth just yards from his own home.

Chapter 11 is a crucial section of the novel. It concludes the largely idyllic portrayal of Maycomb we view in component 1 and deepens the foreshadowing of the tragedy we encounter in component 2. Chiefly, yet, it presents Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, a minor however crucial character in the story. The lesson’s message analysis explores her definition as a symbol and her function in the town.

Clat an early stage, Mrs. Dubose represents the typical order of the Confedeprice South. One method Harper Lee establishes this association is to provide Mrs. Dubose a taste for the novels of Sir Wchange Scott, whose romantic visions of aristocracy and gentility shaped the Old South’s photo of itself. Students are unmost likely to identify that association, but, and also showing it would nearly need one more leskid, so it goes unexplored below. Most certainly, though, students will connect her to the Confederate South via the CSA pistol she is rumored to hide beneath her shawl, and the lesboy does explore that. Perhaps more important, the leskid examines the symbolic import of the camellias Mrs. Dubose proudly cultivates. At one allude Lee juxtaposes them with Mrs. Dubose views on race (p. 144). They serve as something of a stand-in for Mrs. Dubose herself when Jem, in response to her insults, decapitates the Snow-on-the Mountains that border her porch. They take on deeper symbolic resonance once we realize that the camellia is not just the state freduced of Alabama but is also connected through the Knights of the White Camellia, a Ku Klux Klan-like organization, started in 1867, to enpressure white dominance in the South. These associations imbue Jem’s damage of Mrs. Dubose’s blossoms, his admission that next time he would pull the bushes up by their roots, and also his ambiguous “fingering” of the freduced at the finish of the chapter with substantial symbolic import.

To indicate additionally Mrs. Dubose’s association via the Confederate South, you might ask students to speculate on her age. If you carry out, you will most likely gain responses varying from sixty to eighty. For the sake of illustration, you might desire to clear up on seventy and also ask students to calculate the approximate year of her birth. The novel seems to be set approximately 1935 or 36. (The narrator mentions the demise of the National Recoincredibly Administration (p. 336), which was shut down in 1935 once the Supreme Court declared the National Recoincredibly Act unconstitutional.) Based on those dates, Mrs. Dubose would certainly have actually been born roughly 1865 or 66, at the finish of or soon after the Civil War. Thus you can ask how occasions she witnessed as she came of age in the South — the defeat of the Confederacy, the impoverishment of the area, Rebuilding, and also the imposition of Jim Crow — could have shaped her mindsets and worths, especially on matters of race.

The leschild explores not only what Mrs. Dubose represents but likewise just how she attributes in the town. She “stations” (p. 134), a vital word whose connotations the lesboy examines, herself on her porch at an essential method to downtvery own Maycomb, whence she passes judgment not just on the Finch kids yet presumably on everyone that passes by. Her judgments reflect the worths and also attitudes of her heritage. She embodies the old Southern order and also, as she is presented in the novel, is the chief enforcer of its mores. Frail and passing she might be, but she is still a public and also vocal communicator of the racist ideology that shaped her and also the society of her region. How Scout, Jem, and Atticus respond to her argues much about their willingness and also ability to acunderstanding the depth and prevalence of Maycomb’s racism.

Up to chapter 11 only children, Cecil Jacobs and cousin Francis, have actually referred to as Atticus a “nigger lover,” undoubtedly echoing the opinion of their paleas. Mrs. Dubose, from her porch, is the initially adult to level that insult (p. 136), and also she goes beyond it with language much more acidic than that which Cecil and also Francis use. “Your father’s no much better than the niggers and also trash he works for,” she hollers at Scout and also Jem as they pass her residence (p. 135) Upbraiding Jem for mumbling in the time of among his penitential analysis sessions, she taunts him: “Don’t guess you feel choose holding up… through your father what he is” (p. 146).

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It is necessary to emphadimension exactly how vitriolic and also wounding her language is. “So you brought that dirty little sister of yours,” she sneers upon seeing Scout with Jem on one visit (p. 141). Moreover, it is important to have students understand also just what Mrs. Dubose does to Scout and also Jem in their hours via her. “Mrs. Dubose would certainly hound Jem,” the narrator tells us, “on her favorite subjects, her camellias and also our father’s nigger-loving propensities” (p. 144). Here, day after day, an adult, respected, indeed admired by their father and also perhaps by the whole town, looks for to connect the white supremacist heritage of the Old South to Jem and Scout, in effect to a brand-new generation of Southerners. Yet Atticus cannot lug himself to point out how morally reprehensible that heritage is. He dismisses it as a set of views “a lot different” from his own and also qualifies also that mild demur with “maybe” (p. 149). When he looks for to describe Mrs. Dubose’s insults to Jem, his compassion amounts to evasion. “Jem,” he states, “she is old and ill. You can’t organize her responsible for what she claims and does” (p. 140). Most absolutely, he has actually lengthy been aware of Mrs. Dubose’s views on race. To attribute them currently to her age and also health and wellness is, like his bafflement over the roots of “Maycomb’s usual disease,” an instance of his unwillingness to acknowledge completely his community’s racism.

In chapter 11 Scout, Jem, and also Atticus judge the old woguy. “Jem and I hated her,” states Scout (p. 132). “She was vicious” (p. 133). “She was horrible” (p. 142). It is crucial to remind students that these judgments are not those of the six-year-old Scout or the nine-year-old Jem but fairly those of the adult Scout, the narrator, who is looking back on her previous and offering a considered assessment of it. And her assessment of Mrs. Dubose sharply contradicts that of Atticus that thought Mrs. Dubose to be “an excellent lady,” “the bravest person” he ever before knew (p. 149). Upon hearing Atticus describe her that method, Jem throws the candy box that contained her posthumous peace giving into the fire. What does this activity suggest about his mindset towards Mrs. Dubose and also his father’s paean to her courage?

Why does Atticus hold Mrs. Dubose in such esteem? The answer lies, maybe, in the kind of courage he characteristics to her. According to Atticus, “genuine courage” is start a battle “as soon as you know you’re licked before you begin” however start anymeans and also seeing it “it with no issue what” (p. 149). It is, in brief, persisting in a lost cause. This is exactly the same type of courage Atticus displays in his defense of Tom Robinkid. “The jury,” he tells his brother, “couldn’t probably be supposed to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewells’” (p. 117). Atticus might identify via Mrs. Dubose, seeing in her struggle through morphine addiction a reflection of his struggle via the Robinson case.

Who is correct around Mrs. Dubose, Atticus or his children? Was she a “great lady” or an “old hell-devil”? The lesboy asks students to decide. The conclusion of chapter 11, richly ambiguous, supplies bit guidance. What does Jem’s “fingering” of the gift camellia represent? Is he sindicate trying to calm dvery own after his confrontation via his father? Is he reconsidering his opinion of Mrs. Dubose in the light of Atticus’s defense of her? Is he questioning the moral judgment of his father that seems to evince a simple, complacent acceptance of the racist views that stung him right into a rage? And what around Atticus? When he settles earlier to review the neighborhood paper, is he ssuggest resuming his bookish ways, or is he evading the reality about Mrs. Dubose and the neighborhood of Maycomb by distracting himself with the comforting minutiae of life in his little bit town?

This lesson is split into 2 components, both available listed below. The teacher’s guide includes a background note, a message evaluation with responses to close analysis concerns, and an optional follow-up assignment. The student version, an interenergetic PDF, consists of all of the above except the responses to the close analysis concerns and the follow-up assignment.

Teacher’s Guide (continues below)Background noteText analysis and cshed reading questions through answer keyFollow-up assignmentStudent Version (click to open)Interactive PDFBackground noteText analysis and also cshed reading questions