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True Courage

From "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee:


<Mrs. Dubose was a sick, cantankerous old woman who would berate Jem and Scout whenever they passed by her house. Jem tried to heed his father’s counsel to be a gentleman, but finally snapped one day and tore up her flower beds. As punishment, Atticus made Jem read books to Mrs. Dubose every day after school. She hardly seemed to pay attention to his reading, and he was relieved when his sentence finally ended.


When Mrs. Dubose died soon afterwards, Atticus revealed the true nature of Jem’s assignment. She had been a morphine addict for a long time, but wanted to overcome that addiction before she left the world; Jem’s reading had been a distraction as she worked to wean herself from the drug. Atticus explained to Jem:>


“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. 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.”


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