What explanation does Atticus give for Bob Ewell’s attack? What does Heck Tate give as the reason for attack? Do you think the sheriff’s explanation or Atticus’s is the more likely to be...

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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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