In Chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Bob Ewell comments that the black families are "dangerous to live around 'sides devaluin' his property." What is ironic about this? Quote: Bob Ewell...

In Chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Bob Ewell comments that the black families are "dangerous to live around 'sides devaluin' his property." 

What is ironic about this? Quote: Bob Ewell comments that the “nest of [black families] down yonder” is “dangerous to live around ‘sides devaluin’ his property” (Lee 175).

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote, spoken by Bob Ewell in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, is quite ironic in many ways.

First, Ewell claims that having black people in the neighborhood would "devalue his property". The fact is that the Ewells are the most notorious villagers in Macomb, and this notoriety comes for being the lowest of the lowest in terms of social class. This has nothing to do with their level of poverty, which is quite bad, but with their overall way of living.

They are known to be untidy, sickly (due to their poor hygiene), loud, obnoxious, antisocial, and vulgar. Their place of living is completely isolated from Macomb because they do not even possess any social skills to blend in with the rest of the community. In other words, the Ewells devalue the entire town of Macomb themselves only by being there: They add no value to the community,whatsoever.

Moreover, it takes a lot of nerve for someone like Bob Ewell  to dare to mention the flaws of others. This is a man who probably fondles his own daughter, is racist, violent, and a social outcast. The fact that he is oblivious to the chaos in his own life shows how dysfunctional, sad, and sorry is the life of the Ewell family, as a whole.

Therefore, the comment is an irony in its entirety.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the points made in the previous post, Bob's own home may well be located on the least valuable piece of property in all of Maycomb. Bob lives on property adjacent to and behind the town garbage dump in an old shotgun shack, previously owned by a Negro. Bob's comments are ironic since, in truth, the black families that live nearby could only help to increase Bob's own property's value, since anything--even run-down cabins and shacks--is better than living next to a dump. No doubt Bob faces more dangers from the unhealthy vermin which invade his own property from the dump site than from the peaceful black families down the road.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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