Why does Mayella Ewell break into tears at the beginning of her testimony?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Mayella's less than successful court appearance begins when she breaks into tears early in her testimony.  She tells Judge Taylor she is afraid of Atticus, and specifically is afraid that he will try to make her look like a liar like he did her father.  There is a certain element of comic relief here, as Judge Taylor scratches his head.  Scout observes that "It was plain that he had never been confronted with a problem of this kind."  Further into her testimony, Scout makes another observation about Mayella, that gives us a bit of insight into her character and/or coping mechanisms:

"Apparently Mayella's recital had given her confidence, but it was not her father's brash kind:  there was something stealthy about hers, like a steady eyed cat with a twitchy tail."

At this point, the reader may pause to wonder if the tears early in the monologue were real, or part of Mayella's strategy to do well on the stand and/or avoid another beating by her father. 


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