In Harper Lee's book To Kill A Mockingbird, describe the kind of person Bob Ewell is based upon the traits he admires and dislikes?

1 Answer | Add Yours

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, we see the kind of person Bob Ewell is by the traits he admires or despises in others. At the beginning of the court proceedings, Ewell takes the stand to give his testimony. His behavior is exposes Ewell's character—seen in his response to those in the courtroom.

When Bob Ewell speaks, he does not take the judicial process seriously: he speaks familiarly with the prosecution's lawyer, as if they were friends. Ewell's responses show that he has little respect for the system—he's the kind of man who thinks things are a joke and laughs along with anyone who will laugh or agree with him. He would admire the men who come to the jail before the trial in an attempt to intimidate Atticus in letting them have Tom Robinson so they can lynch him without a fair trial. He cares nothing for justice. When Ewell makes a distasteful joke about Mayella's parentage, there are many in the courtroom that laugh at him, and he plays up to his audience, again demonstrating how little regard he has for the court.

When Judge Taylor infers a need for Ewell to stop kidding around in order to answer the questions put to him in a serious way, it "made the laughter below [the balcony] stop suddenly." The judge then scolds Ewell about his behavior, directing him to make "no more audibly obscene speculations on any this court..." Scout notes that Ewell nods as if he understands, but her impression is that he really does not.

When Ewell tells his "version" of the events on the night of Mayella's alleged rape, the courtroom erupts in pandamonium. Judge Taylor does his best to restore order. Ewell has accused a black man of raping his daughter. The delegation of Tom Robinson's peers are openly distraught: not because they believe the accusation, but because they know the word of a white man in Maycomb carries more weight than the truth. And we find that Ewell likes being the center of attention:

Mr. Ewell was sitting smugly in the witness chair, surveying his handiwork.

Ewell is delighted. He admires those who believe him without question, who laugh with him, and who support his desire that Tom should pay for a crime he did not commit—because Ewell's daughter actually threw herself at a black man, shaming the bigoted Ewell.

Bob Ewell has little time for those who support others when that support contradicts his opinion—he takes this support as a personal affront. When the judge warns Ewell again to keep a civil tongue in his mouth, "...keeping [his] testimony within the confines of Christian English usage," Ewell tries to pretend that he understands and will cooperate. However, when Atticus starts to question Ewell, his demeanor changes. He looks at Atticus "with haughty suspicion." Here Ewell sees someone who will not find his jokes funny and whose job it is to prove Tom innocent.

After the trial, Ewell shows his dislike of Atticus because he has proven Ewell a liar in court—he spits in Atticus' face and threatens him.

...Ewell approached him, cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him.

Ewell admires the traits of those who would defy the law, and hates those who support a law that defends blacks against whites, as seen in his behavior with those who support him, and Atticus—who does not.


We’ve answered 320,040 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question