Explain why Sheriff Tate insists on declaring Bob Ewell's death an accident. Do you agree or disagree with the way he handles the situation? Why? How does Tate's decision affect your view of him?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of chapter 30, Sheriff Tate tells Atticus that Jem did not murder Bob Ewell and informs the community that Bob's death was an accident in order to protect Boo Radley from entering the community's limelight. Sheriff Tate knows that the community will appreciate Boo's heroics and cast him into the limelight, which would harm Boo because he is extremely shy and reclusive. Sheriff Tate tells Atticus,

To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an‘ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight—to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man, it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch. (Lee 280)

Sheriff Tate reveals his sympathetic and compassionate nature by refusing to disclose Boo's heroics to the community. He takes into consideration how Boo would feel being in the community's spotlight and decides to tell everyone Bob Ewell fell on his own knife. Sheriff Tate's decision to protect Boo is admirable and reflects his morally-upright character.

Sheriff Tate subscribes to Atticus's belief concerning the importance of protecting innocent beings by protecting Boo from the community's limelight. I support Sheriff Tate's decision to not disclose Boo's heroics and agree with his comment, "Let the dead bury the dead" (Lee 280). Rather than prolong the conversation surrounding Bob's attack, Sheriff Tate makes the right decision to tell the community Bob fell on his own knife.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sheriff Tate is aware of the problems that will arise if he decides to charge Boo Radley with murder (albeit in self-defense). Boo will have to make appearances in court, as will Jem and Scout, and the sheriff decides that justice will be best served by calling Bob Ewell's death a self-inflicted accident.

"To my way of thinkin', Mr. Finch, takin' the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight--to me that's a sin. It's a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head."

As Sheriff Tate says, "let the dead bury the dead." He believes that Ewell got what he deservea by trying to harm Jem and Scout and that Boo was only protecting the children. His decision is best for all involved.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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