Does Atticus get any joy from his cross-examination of Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird? Explain.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Scout, Atticus appears to be sick to his stomach during his questioning of Mayella Ewell during the Tom Robinson trial. After she leaves the witness stand, Scout claims that

I never saw anybody glare at anyone with the hatred Mayella showed when she left the stand and walked past Atticus's table.

Atticus begins his questioning in a polite and friendly manner, trying to put Mayella at ease. But she believes that Atticus is "mockin' " her, since no one has apparently ever addressed her as "Miss Mayella" or "Ma'am" before. Atticus turns away from Mayella after many of his questions and looks out the courtroom window, in part because he doesn't want to see her hostile face during her answers. Atticus's voice eventually "lost its comfortableness," resorting to a "detached professional" tone. He "rained questions on her," but there was still "compassion" in his queries. At the end of his questioning, "Atticus sat down wearily." As a Southern gentleman, Atticus had taken no pleasure in his questioning, being forced to ask personal questions of both a private and a sexual nature to a teenaged girl.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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