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Mrs. Dubose (full name Henry Lafayette Dubose[1]) is a character from To Kill a Mockingbird. She is the Finches' "mean" neighbor.



Appearance[]

Mrs. Dubose is an old woman with light skin, with liver spots on her cheeks, as well as pale, dark eyes. Her hands are knobby with age, and her cuticles grew over her fingers. She also has a protruded jaw.[2]

Personality[]

Mrs. Dubose believes in the racism and gender roles of the time period.[3] She is considered meanest lady of the neighborhood[4] and is most well known because she is always angry at Scout and Jem,[5] despite any effort to pacify her.[6] She eventually badmouths Jem's dad.

History[]

Mrs. Dubose lives two blocks north from the Finch family[1] and spent most of her day in bed or in a wheelchair, living with only a female, black servant.[7] She had a morphine addiction for years due to a doctor's prescription, but swore to break it before her death after realizing she only had a few months to live.

Relationships[]

Scout Finch[]

Scout hated her,[8] and the feeling was mutual.

Atticus Finch[]

Mrs. Dubose feels that Atticus didn't raise his children properly, and let them grow up into disrespectful children. She also feels that it was a pity he didn't remarry.[9] Before her death, he is the one who helps her write her will.[10]

Jem Finch[]

Like Scout, Jem hated her. After he tears up her flower beds in anger, he is forced to read to her as punishment. Later, he stops resenting her, but is only politely interested in her.[11] When she dies, she gifts him a camellia to show her forgiveness for what he did to her flowers, and Jem ends up holding it gently.[12]

Scout and Jem's mother[]

Not much is known about their relationship, but Mrs. Dubose refers to her as a lovely person.[9]

Synopsis[]

Scout recalls that a little before she was 6, her summertime boundaries were within Mrs. Dubose's house two doors north and the Radley place. She says that she was never tempted to break them because of the scary neighbors that inhabited those houses.[13] Scout says that Cecil Jacobs walked a whole mile to avoid those two houses as well.[14]

At Miss Maudie's house, Scout asks if all the neighbors are old, referring to Mrs. Dubose as almost one hundred.[15]

As Scout grows into a second grader, she has to pass by Mrs. Dubose's house more often. Scout thinks that she had to grow up and learn to deal with it.[16] Scout describes her more in detail, talking about her day-to-day life and a rumor surrounding her.[7]

Once, she heard Jem refer to his father by his first name, and became livid. She says that Atticus didn't raise his children properly, and pities that he didn't remarry. This makes Jem angry.[9]

Jem becomes angry at something that Mrs. Dubose says several times, but Atticus tells him to be a gentleman and calm himself. Atticus strikes up conversation with her gallantly every time that Jem and Scout visit her.[17]

The day after Jem's 12th birthday, Jem and Scout go to town. They pass by Mrs. Dubose, who is sitting on the porch. Mrs. Dubose accuses them of skipping school, finds Scout's clothing too unladylike, and worst of all badmouth's Atticus.[18] Scout observes that it was the first time an adult insulted Atticus to their faces. Later, Jem seeks revenge by cutting off Mrs. Dubose's prized camellia flowers with the baton he bought for Scout.[19] Atticus shows up home with a cut flower in hand, and sends Jem to Mrs. Dubose's house for her to decide his punishment, which ends up to be reading to her.

The following Monday, Scout and Jem go to Mrs. Dubose's house. Jessie opens the door for them. Mrs. Dubose is in bed, and she listens to Jem read a copy of Ivanhoe. Scout describes her as looking terrible, but doesn't realize it was because of morphine withdrawal symptoms at that moment.[2] Mrs. Dubose grows distracted, and makes fewer and fewer corrections to Jem's reading, and starts making strange motions. Jem asks if she's alright, but Mrs. Dubose doesn't respond. Jessie shoos them out of the house. Jem tells Atticus what happens, saying that he wasn't frightened, but thought it was nasty, describing her as having 'fits.' Atticus says that sick people could be like that.

This pattern continues for several afternoons.[20]

Atticus tells Scout not to let Mrs. Dubose make her angry either, as Mrs. Dubose had her own problems already.[21]

One afternoon a month later, Atticus knocks on the door. Mrs. Dubose smiles at him and tells him the time. Scout notices that they've been at Mrs. Dubose's house longer and longer each day, and that her fits had gotten less and less common. The adults talk, and agree that Jem would no longer have to read to her after a week.[22] She starts returning to her old self as time goes on. Jem develops a detached politeness to her.

A month later, Atticus gets a call and goes to Mrs. Dubose's house, saying he wouldn't be long. He ends up gone until nightfall, and carries a candybox. Atticus tells them that she died a few minutes ago, but no longer had to suffer. Atticus reveals that Mrs. Dubose had known she'd only had a few months left. She was a morphine addict due to her doctor's prescriptions, and that her fits were caused by it. Just before Jem had ruined her flowers, Atticus had helped her make her will. She swore that she'd beat her addiction before her death. She had made Jem read to her as a means to distract her from the effects of morphine withdrawal.[23]

Atticus gives Jem the candybox, saying that Mrs. Dubose gifted it. When Jem opens it, there is a snow-on-the-mountain camellia. Jem throws it, screams, and burries himself into Atticus's shirt. Atticus tells him that it was her way of forgiveness, and that she was the bravest person he ever knew, despite her faults.[24] Jem throws the candybox in the fire, but Scout catches him picking up the camellia and fingering it gently.[12]

Gallery[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Chapter 1, "When I was almost six and Jem was nearly ten, our summertime boundaries were Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose's house two doors to the north of us, and the Radley Place three doors to the south."
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chapter 11, "Her face was the color of a dirty pillowcase, and the corners of her mouth glistened with wet, which inched like a glacier down the deep grooves enclosing her chin. Old-age liver spots dotted her cheeks, and her pale eyes had black pinpoint pupils. Her hands were knobby, and the cuticles were grown up over her fingernails. Her bottom plate was not in, and her upper lip protruded; from time to time she would draw her nether lip to her upper plate and carry her chin with it. This made the wet move faster."
  3. Chapter 11, "What are you doing in those overalls? You should be in a dress and camisole, young lady! You’ll grow up waiting on tables if somebody doesn’t change your ways [...] Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one in the courthouse lawing for n*ggers!"
  4. Chapter 4, "...neighborhood opinion was unanimous that Mrs. Dubose was the meanest old woman who ever lived. Jem wouldn’t go by her place without Atticus beside him."
  5. Chapter 11, "Jem and I hated her. If she was on the porch when we passed, we would be raked by her wrathful gaze, subjected to ruthless interrogation regarding our behavior, and given a melancholy prediction on what we would amount to when we grew up, which was always nothing."
  6. Chapter 11, "If I said as sunnily as I could, 'Hey, Mrs. Dubose,' I would receive for an answer, 'Don't you say hey to me, you ugly girl! You say 'good afternoon, Mrs. Dubose!"
  7. 7.0 7.1 Chapter 11, "Mrs. Dubose lived alone except for a Negro girl in constant attendance, two doors up the street from us in a house with steep front steps and a dog-trot hall. She was very old; she spent most of each day in bed and the rest of it in a wheelchair. It was rumored that she kept a CSA pistol concealed among her numerous shawls and wraps."
  8. Chapter 1, "Mrs. Dubose was plain hell."
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Chapter 11, "...we were told that it was quite a pity our father had not remarried after our mother’s death. A lovelier lady than our mother never lived, she said, and it was heartbreaking the way Atticus Finch let her children run wild."
  10. Chapter 11, "She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody [...] She said she meant to break herself of it before she died, and that's what she did."
  11. Chapter 11, "Jem's chin would come up, and he would gaze at Mrs. Dubose with a face devoid of resentment."
  12. 12.0 12.1 Chapter 11, "He picked up the camellia, and when I went off to bed I saw him fingering the wide petals."
  13. Chapter 1, "Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose's house two doors to the north of us...Mrs. Dubose was plain hell."
  14. Chapter 4, "...walked a total of one mile per school day to avoid the Radley Place and old Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose."
  15. Chapter 10, "Mrs. Dubose is close on to a hundred and Miss Rachel's old and so are you and Atticus."
  16. Chapter 11, "...the business section of Maycomb drew us frequently up the street past the real property of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose."
  17. Chapter 11, "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."
  18. Chapter 11, "What are you doing in those overalls? You should be in a dress and camisole, young lady! You’ll grow up waiting on tables if somebody doesn’t change your ways... Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one in the courthouse lawing for n*ggers!"
  19. Chapter 11, "He did not begin to calm down until he had cut the tops off every camellia bush Mrs. Dubose owned, until the ground was littered with green buds and leaves."
  20. Chapter 11, "The next afternoon at Mrs. Dubose's was the same as the first, and so was the next, until gradually a pattern emerged: everything would begin normally... she would grow increasingly silent, then go away from us. The alarm clock would ring, Jessie would shoo us out, and the rest of the day was ours."
  21. Chapter 11, "She has enough troubles of her own."
  22. Chapter 11, "Do you know what time it is, Atticus? Exactly fourteen minutes past five. The alarm clock's set for five-thirty. I want you to know that."
  23. Chapter 11, "She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody... She said she meant to break herself of it before she died, and that's what she did."
  24. Chapter 11, "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... She was the bravest person I ever knew."
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