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The Ewells live behind the town's garbage dump in an old cabin. The cabin and the yard itself are made of scraps and odds and ends. Scout describes the yard as "the playhouse of an insane child." The plot and yard are full of junk, including a Model-T on blocks. Essentially, the only thing distinguishing the Ewell's property from the garbage dump is the fence, the cabin and the presence of the Ewells themselves. In spite of this dirt-poor, jumbled mess of a living space, there was one aspect that stood out:
One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s. (Chapter 17)
Since Bob Ewell is useless as a father (aside from hunting food), Mayella, the oldest of the children, is faced with the task of raising the children. Tom Robinson recognizes that Mayella is lonely and could use some help and this is precisely why he helps her. The geraniums are Mayella's attempt to shed at least some beauty on her poor life, if not for her, for the other Ewell children.
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