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What explanation does Atticus give for Bob Ewell's attack?

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ram93leo | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:33 AM via web

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What explanation does Atticus give for Bob Ewell's attack?

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 6, 2010 at 1:04 AM (Answer #1)

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As a reader, I've always wondered if Atticus is overlooking one of the real reasons that Bob Ewell may have gone after his children. In his questioning of Mayella, Atticus asks "Does he ever go after you?" (his wording causes Mayella to pause, and he rephrases the question with less ambiguity) and in his questioning of Tom Robinson, he opens the door for the defendant to drop a hint that Bob Ewell has an incestuous relationship with his daughter: "She says what papa do to her don't count."

I don't generally look for the most scandalous things in what I read, but here scandal seems to stand out. Bob Ewell has been publically shamed in a number of ways, including the exposure of his drinking binges and hints that he has repeatedly raped his own daughter. I agree with the previous posters that, in comparison to the public shaming, Atticus' stated explanation seems to be overly generous or perhaps even clueless.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted March 15, 2010 at 8:14 AM (Answer #1)

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In the book To Kill a Mockingbird  Atticus was confronted in town after the trial by Bob Ewell who had spit in his face.  Atticus states that he thought if Bob did do anything he would come after him and not after the children.  He is shocked and upset to think that Ewell had purposely set out to harm Jem and Scout.

Atticus is very confused about the events of the night.  He initially believes that his son, Jem, is the one who had stabbed Bob Ewell.  However, after Heck Tate looks into things further it is revealed that Boo Radley had saved the children.  Heck decides to rule the incident an accidental death as Bob had fallen on his knife.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:43 AM (Answer #2)

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Bob Ewell had already threatened Atticus and his family more than once before his final attack near the end of To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus had previously told Jem to step into Bob's shoes to see how he would think. Atticus had destroyed "the last shred" of Ewell's credibility, leaving Bob little else to do but attack Atticus in revenge. But Atticus never expected Bob to resort to harming Jem and Scout. "I can't conceive of anyone low-down enough to do a thing like this, but I hope you found him," Atticus told Sheriff Tate.

But following the attack, Atticus finally begins to understand just how consumed Ewell was with revenge.

    "He was out of his mind," said Atticus.
    "Don't like to contradict you, Mr. Finch--wasn't crazy, mean as hell. Low-down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill children. He'd have never met you face to face."
    Atticus said, "I thought he got it all out of him the day he threatened me. Even if he hadn't, I thought he'd come after me."

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:51 AM (Answer #2)

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There are a couple of attacks by Bob Ewell, this one takes place between chapters 22-23.

In chapter 23, Atticus notes that Ewell's reputation was smeared by Atticus' cross examination. People of Ewell's type don't know how to take that or how to deal with it. Ewell had to lash out somehow.

His effort to lash out took the form of spitting in Atticus' face. Atticus believed that this would be the end of it. Those of us who have hit the end of the story know better.

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elihelmy | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:53 PM (Answer #4)

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Atticus's initial reaction is that Jem has killed Bob Ewell while trying to defend his sister and himself from attack - it is quite understandable that in his shocked and distressed state Atticus would not be thinking straight. Heck Tate, who has examined the crime scene and discovered two knives, correctly works out that Boo Radley has killed Bob Ewell but he does not want Boo exposed to all the publicity that due legal procedure would bring, and so is determined to present it as a case of Ewell falling on his own knife during the attack on the children. Therefore neither version is true and the truth will not come out, which is a big irony when you consider that two of the figures who most represent justice and right in the novel conspire at the end in a cover-up. Of course it is a satisfying ending to the novel but it is still a cover-up. Sheriff Tate's conclusion is that Bob Ewell has finally paid the price for the death of Tom Robinson and he sees justice in this. As he says, 'Let the dead bury the dead.'

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justess15 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 17, 2012 at 11:38 AM (Answer #3)

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Wrong chapter mam. On chapter "29" Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout (while bob is drunk like always) while comming back from the halloween festival (or whatever) and has a conversation in front of the Radley house. Well Boo comes out, stabs Mr. Ewell, and Mr. Ewell ended up braking Jem's arm. The explanation Atticus gives us is...(havn't read chapter yet)...(5 min. lator)

Atticus says," I thought he had it out of his system, if he didn't then, I thought he'd come for me but, my kids." Atticus doesn't realy give an explanation. Just kind of like he was drunk, so be it. He's dead, so move on with your life.

Lator on Bob Ewell was said to have fallen on his knife! Thank god he's dead. Maybe now the "Blacks" will move up a knotch!

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