What are some impressions readers gain about Mayella, Judge Taylor, and Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, chapter 18?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mayella has evidently been fragilized, not only by the incident involving Tom Robinson but by a lifetime of poverty and squalour. The Ewell family has eeked out an existence living by the town dump, and Mr Ewell's drinking bouts are no well-kept family secret. Mayella is a victim of circumstance but also seems furtive and "sneaky." More than once, she changes her account of the story and is unnerved when Atticus suggest her father is the real culprit of her molestation. Her hesitation and anger discredit her testimony, as does her unjustified fear of Atticus Finch. She also thinks he is insulting her by addressing her as "Ma'am," flaring up as Atticus gets closer and closer to the truth. 

Atticus is patient with Mayella but hardens his tone towards the end. He takes his time between questions, going back and forth to the window as if pacing his advance.

Judge Taylor reassures Mayella of the lawyer's good intentions ("That's just his way.") but of the necessity to reconstruct events as they really were. He takes matters in stride but seems tired down by the controversial nature of the case and of the probable outcome of the jury's verdict. Underneath his nonchalent appearance (he chews on an unlit cigar and calls Atticus Finch and Mr Gilmer by their first names), he seems defeatist but noble, much like the captain of a sinking ship. Though as determined as Atticus to give Tom Robinson a fair trial, he seems aware of Tom's ultimate fate. 

afi80fl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As far as the judge is concerned, we learn more about his feelings from Miss Maudie's explanation which she shares with Scout.  When he looked at Bob Ewell as if he were "a square egg", we note that the judge has a keen appreciation for personal appearance, dignity, and respect for the justice system.  Additionally, he quickly rebuffs Mr. Ewell for his rude and saucy remarks, often of a foul or provocative nature ("ruttin' on my Mayella"). 

Mayella Ewell can be seen as the most hostile of witnesses, and her distrust for Atticus, seen by her stating that he's "trying to trick her."  However, Atticus has the maturity and compassion to see through her attitude, and recognizes that she has been hurt, abused, and is both scared and confused.  He says as much in his closing statement, noting that he has "nothing but sympathy in his heart for the state's chief witness." 

Finally, Atticus demonstrates his true devotion to his case when he delivers one of literature's most moving monologues.  He pierces the hearts of those on the jury, as well as those in the courtroom audience.  His passion is felt most strongly, perhaps, when he says, "For God's sake, do your duty... for God's sake, believe him."  this shows just how emotionally invested he is in the case, rather than seeing it as simply another trial to be lost or won.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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