In chapter 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, please explain how Atticus's explanation of Bob Ewell's actions beginning with "I think I understand..." And ending with "Atticus chuckled"...

In chapter 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, please explain how Atticus's explanation of Bob Ewell's actions beginning with "I think I understand..." And ending with "Atticus chuckled" reveals his character.

Please use strong evidence from the novel. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus represents the calm, rational man in a community of emotionally charged people; he is a sensible man who feels he can handle those who are irrational and over-wrought because he can "climb into his skin and walk around in it." In Chapter 27, when Atticus explains Bob Ewell's actions, he places himself in the man's skin: Bob Ewell is white trash, reviled in Maycomb, made to live by the garbage dump. But, when he gets the opportunity to gain attention by accusing a 'Negro' of sexually assaulting his daughter, Ewell thinks he will elevate himself in the eyes of the community--"He thought he'd be a hero"--because the people will want to hang Tom for touching a white woman. But, instead, Atticus proves him a liar and he and his daughter are humiliated, seen again as nothing but white trash.--

--Atticus's assessment of Bob Ewell and his calm explanation are certainly consistent with his characteristics of rationality and calmness, much as in Chapter 3 when Scout complains about Miss Caroline's insulting words about Atticus's not knowing how to teach reading. For, instead of being offended, Atticus suggests to Scout that they "compromise" on this issue. He tells Scout,

"If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain."

Atticus understands that Miss Caroline feels threatened by Scout's already knowing how to read and issues her order so she can maintain authority.

--In Chapter 7 the children receive gifts from Boo Radley in the knothole of the Radley tree. When Mr. Nathan cements the hole, an emotional Jem is extremely upset--"He's crazy, I reckon,..but Atticus, I swear to God he ain't ever harmed us...- Atticus says, "Whoa, son...You're right,"-and he asks her father if the Radley tree is sick. But, he informs Jem that all the same the tree does belong to the Radleys.

--In another instance of Atticus's calm and rational behavior, in Chapter 11 when Mrs. DuBose vilifies their father, Jem reacts emotionally by tearing off the blooms of her camellias. But, Atticus punishes Jem for his vandalism, assigning him to read to the old woman. Even as he does so, Mrs. Dubose continues her insults; nevertheless, Atticus continues tipping his hat and speaking politely to her. Later on, Mrs. Dubose dies, but only after sending a camellia to Jem. His father tells him, "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand." Because he knew that Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict, Atticus always reacted calmly and he tipped his hat to her politely. 

--In Chapter 15 when the prominent men of the town come to the Finch home, they are nervous about the trial of Tom Robinson which will begin the next day; Link Deas asks if Atticus cannot change the venue of the trial: 

"'ve got everything to lose from this, Atticus. I mean everything."

"Do you really think so?" This was Atticus's ...question.

After he sends the men off, Atticus calmly goes to his chair and picks up the evening paper. When Jem asks if those men were after his father, Atticus calmly says, "No son, those were our friends."

--In Chapter 16 when the Old Sarum bunch come to the jailhouse, Atticus again uses his patented line "Do you really think so?"And, tension rises, but Scout diffuses it as she talks with Mr. Cunningham, who becomes ashamed and leads the other men way with him. Afterwards, Scout asks her father if he insists that Mr. Cunningham is their friend, why he would join in harming Atticus. Her father replies that Mr. Cunningham is a good man, but he has a few "blind spots.

--In Chapter 23 after Bob Ewell spits in the face of Atticus in retaliation for the humiliation he has felt at the trial, he tries to shame Atticus. Spitting in the face of Atticus, he says, "Too proud to fight, you n***r-lovin' bastard? Atticus calmly replies, "No, too old."
The children are worried about Ewell's threat that he will get him someday. But Atticus smiles wryly,

 "Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial. If he had any to begin with. The man has to have some kind of comeback...and I'd rather it be me than that houseful of children out there.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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