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How Bob Ewell became a single father is not stated in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. However, given the sordid and depressing and deprived environment in which the Ewell children live, it is probable that Mrs. Ewell either died or ran away from her cruel and abusive husband, who is a shiftless drunkard. She may have even discovered that Bob Ewell was sexually abusing Mayella, and when she threatened to report him, Mrs. Ewell may have been beaten. At any rate, Mrs. Ewell has been absent from the family for some time since Mayella has been long in charge of the other children and she knows no kindness. When, for instance, Atticus speaks in a polite manner to her in the court room, Mayella accuses him of making fun of her, saying he has no right to do so.
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