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No two parenting styles could be more different than those of Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell. The only similarities whatsoever are that both Bob and Atticus are single parents: Both of their wives have died and left them to take care of the children; and Atticus and Bob have both found replacements--Calpurnia in the Finch household, and Bob's eldest daughter Mayella in the Ewell home. Mayella does her best to take care of the seven other Ewell children, but she gets little help from her drunken father, who is known to drink up the family welfare check and leave the kids for days at a time. The Ewells live in a run-down house adjacent to the town dump where the children spend most of their time.
The varmints had a lean time of it, for the Ewells gave the dump a thorough gleaning every day... (Chapter 17)
None of the children attend school regularly; Bob sees that they go to school on the first day each year so they have no trouble from the local truant officer. The children are always dirty--young Burris is "the filthiest human I had ever seen," according to Scout--and they rarely bathe in a house that has no running water. Bob spends much of his time prowling about town or hunting out-of-season in the nearby swamps when he is not regularly beating Mayella. As the family is "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations," Bob's children are bound to carry on the family tradition after he is gone.
Atticus, meanwhile, spends as much time with Jem and Scout as his free time allows. A lawyer and state legislator, Atticus is often away from home, but he has the faithful housekeeper Calpurnia to look after the childen when he is gone. Although Atticus is far from wealthy, often taking payment for his services in trade goods, he provides for his children. They attend school, and Jem and Scout are both good students and avid readers. Atticus reads with Scout every night and encourages them to come to him when they have problems or questions to be answered. Atticus allows them a certain degree of independence, but he also sets strict rules for them and has high expectations for their future. Above all else, Atticus leads by example, and his honesty and high moral values are not lost on Jem and Scout, who recognize that Atticus is probably the most important friend that the citizens of Maycomb have. Where Bob Ewell is the lowest form of "white trash" in the county, Atticus is the man who everyone else looks up to.
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