To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 11 Summary

Instructor: Molly Richards

Molly has ten years of middle school teaching experience and two master's degrees in teaching.

To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a southern town divided by race issues during the 1930s, as narrated by a young girl named Scout. Scout and her brother, Jem, navigate adult issues of race, hatred, justice and bravery through their father's defending of a black man on trial. In this lesson, we will focus on themes and characters presented in chapter 11.

Atticus and Tom

After being accused of raping a white woman, Tom Robinson, a black man, is set to face an all-white jury. Atticus steps up to represent Tom, even though he knows there is no chance for a win. His decision comes with repercussions from his racist neighbors for both him and his children. In chapter 11, Scout and Jem are put to the test with one of these neighbors, Mrs. Dubose.

Mrs. Dubose

Scout and Jem have begun making their way to the business district after school to wait for Atticus. Unfortunately, to get to town they have to pass Mrs. Dubose's house, and it doesn't come without interrogation from her. She is an older woman who lives alone and spends her days in bed or a wheelchair. When they pass by her house, she always has something to say to Jem and Scout, commenting on how they dress, how they are raised, and so on. Jem is upset by these comments, but when he mentions them to Atticus, he tells Jem that she is old and ill. Jem and Scout are to act politely and not let her comments get to them, though they aren't so sure about that.

After his 12th birthday, Jem invites Scout to go with him to spend his birthday money. Once again though, they see Mrs. Dubose out on her porch and she begins her rant. She scolds the children about school, their manners and their attire, the usual rant. Jem starts to get agitated, but Scout reminds him what Atticus said, to 'hold your head high and be a gentleman'. However, she makes a snide comment about Atticus defending blacks, and how he is as bad as the trash he works for. Jem is furious and Scout is speechless; she has been bullied by her own peers, but never an adult.

Scout and Jem continue on their way to the store where they buy a toy steam engine and a baton. They begin to walk home with Jem still upset about Mrs. Dubose's comments. When they get to her house, she isn't outside. In his fury, Jem takes the baton from Scout and begins to rip the flowers off of all of her flower bushes. After breaking the new baton in half, he drags a screaming Scout home.

When Atticus arrives home that evening, he knows exactly what happened. As a result, Atticus sends Jem to Mrs. Dubose's house to talk with her. Jem promises to help fix her flowers, but Mrs. Dubose asks for more. She wants Jem to read to her in the afternoons. Jem is hesitant, but Atticus insists that he do it for a month.

Scout joins Jem, and they walk to Mrs. Dubose's house after school. Even while reading, she critiques them, but eventually she gazes off. An alarm sounds and her help, Jessie, tells them it's time to go. The same thing happens every afternoon, except that the alarm goes off later and later each day. Finally, Mrs. Dubose tells Jem he is finished, and they go.

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