In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Scout compare Mayella to during the trial?  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mayella Ewell is the nineteen year-old daughter of Bob Ewell who accuses Tom Robinson of raping her. When Mayella takes the witness stand, Scout thinks about where she comes from and the type of life she is forced to live as a Ewell. It must be quite a disgusting life, for example, to live behind the dump, living off of what they find in the forest and in the trash. They don't bathe like they should, either; but they did seem to have bathed for court that day. In fact, Scout says that Mr. Ewell had washed off a protective layer of dirt which exposed his skin to the sun and made him appear to have a "scalded look." Scout continues to say the following:

"Mayella looked as if she tried to keep clean, and I was reminded of the row of red geraniums in the Ewell yard" (179).

The red geraniums could represent the fact that Mayella looked as red as her father did, due to sunburn or sensitivity to the sun; and/or that Mayella tried to make her home more beautiful.

Then Scout makes an interesting comparison as she is observing Mayella on the witness stand as follows:

"Apparently Mayella's recital had given her confidence, but it was not her father's brash kind: there was something stealthy about hers, like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy tail" (181).

This is a good simile to use when describing Mayella. She's young, but she's not altogether dumb. She has a scripted role to play at this trial and she is doing it well. She's playing the "poor me" game like a professional with her eyes set on the goal, and she anxiously sits in her seat to accomplish it.

 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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