Bob Ewell In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1324 words - 5 pages

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (Lee 20), said the inspirational book character, Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. This simple quote was used by Atticus to help relieve his daughter and protagonist, Scout, after her misfortunate first day of school. Now, however, the phrase is one of the most renowned book quotes due to its potential real-life applications. Scout may have needed to walk around in the skin of Robert E. Lee Ewell, better known as Bob Ewell, because she had some confusion over the way he acted due to the fact that she had "never heard Atticus talk about folks the way he talked about the Ewells" (Lee 87). Knowing that Atticus felt that way about anybody was a new experience for Scout. She tried to understand the reasoning behind Bob Ewell's actions, but with the good morals she was exclusively exposed to as a result of Atticus' teaching, Ewell's activities were a challenge for her to comprehend. However, Bob Ewell's actions, which included pressing charges on Tom Robinson and chasing the Finch children, did have their causes: his background, Maycomb's class structure, family problems, & an overall trait of insecurity.
The Ewells are viewed as the dregs of local society, as even "Atticus said the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations" (Lee 21), during which they had "lived on the same plot of earth behind the Maycomb dump, and had thrived on county welfare money" (Lee 91). The lack of social exposure due to where and how he lives justifies Bob Ewell's lack of even the slightest form of respect in any scene in which he speaks. Atticus even passively allows Ewell to "call him names wild horses could not bring her [Miss Stephanie Crawford, telling the story] to repeat" (Lee 155) in their confrontation after the trial. The Ewells are also given special privileges by the community, some of which include that the children did not have to go to school except for the first day each year, and that Bob Ewell was allowed to hunt out of season (Lee 21). They were not given these privileges because they earned them, but most likely because the townspeople pitied them, and in some cases maybe even because the townspeople wanted to stay away from the Ewells. Being pitied does not go well in people with minds like Bob Ewell, and this probably caused his solely antagonistic actions throughout the novel.
According to Jem Finch, the class structure of Maycomb County consists of "the ordinary kind like us [the Finches] and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes" (Lee 161). The Ewells are thus the lowest of the white population and were the only "members of an exclusive society made up of Ewells" (Lee 21). Being born into a poor family put enough economic and social pressure on Bob Ewell that it may have...

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