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Life was difficult in the Ewell home.  There were many children and their mother had died years before.  Their father, Bob Ewell, was a lazy drunkard.  He received welfare money from the government, but he spent what little he had on buying alcohol.  Mayella, the oldest daughter, was left to care for the house and the children.  She was in her late teens and had not attended school in many years.  Education was not valued in the Ewell family.  Burris Ewell usually went to school for the first day only each year.  The Ewell children almost always skipped school.

They lived in an old cabin near the town garbage dump.  It was small, with only four rooms.  The yard was full of junk they had gathered from the dump:

...what passed for a fence was bits of tree-limbs, broomsticks and tool shafts, all tipped with rusty hammer-heads, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes and grubbing hoes, held on with pieces of barbed wire.  Enclosed by this barricade was a dirty yard containing the remains of a Model-T Ford (on blocks), a discarded dentist's chair, an ancient icebox, plus lesser items: old shoes, worn-out table radios, picture frames, and fruit jars, under which scrawny orange chickens pecked hopefully (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 17).

Cleanliness was not a priority in the Ewell household.  Scout noted that it seemed like Mayella tried to wash up and stay clean, but this was not the case with some of the others.  Burris was sent home for head lice on the first day of school.  Scout described how dirty Burris was:

He was the filthiest human I had ever seen.  His neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick (Chapter 3).

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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