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 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, they do disagree about the essential worth of Bob Ewell. As was mentioned in the previous post, Atticus and Sheriff Tate have different views concerning the nature of Bob Ewell. After Scout describes the attack, Atticus mentions that he cannot fathom how a person could attempt to murder two innocent children. Atticus then comments that he believes Bob Ewell was out of his mind. Sheriff Tate then contradicts Atticus and says that Bob Ewell was simply a mean, wicked individual. Atticus had thought that Bob Ewell got all of the hate out of his system the day they met at the post office, but Sheriff Tate knows better. Unlike Atticus, Sheriff Tate understands evil people like Bob Ewell. Atticus is naive in the sense that he believes that Bob Ewell would not hold a grudge or act upon his impulses. In contrast, Heck Tate understands that Bob Ewell is capable of unspeakable acts and believes that Bob should have been shot years ago before he ever had a chance to harm anyone. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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