In Chapter 29 of To Kill a Mockingbird, do Atticus and Heck Tate disagree over the essential worth of Bob Ewell?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 29, Atticus and Heck Tate listen as Scout tells them her account of what happened when Bob Ewell attacked her as she was walking back with Jem. The reactions to this of Atticus and Heck are interesting, because it shows the kind of optimistic belief Atticus has in human nature whilst it also indicates the world-weary cynicism of Heck Tate, who has obviously seen a lot and is not surprised by what Bob Ewell did. When Atticus says that Bob Ewell must have been mad to do what he did, Heck Tate interrupts him to say that actually, he was not mad, he was just a terrible individual. Note how they expand this discussion:

"Mr. Finch, there's just some kind of men you have to shoot before you can say hidy to 'em. Even then, they ain't worth the bullet it takes to shoot 'em. Ewell 'as one of 'em."

Atticus said, "I thought he got it all out of him the day he threatened me. Even if he hadn't, I thought he'd come after me."

Atticus shows himself here to trust too much in the essential goodness of human nature. He has to learn from this episode that some people are just not good through and through and that this dictates all of their actions. For once, Heck Tate understands more about humans than Atticus does.


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