To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How can you frame Jem Finch for the murder of Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers info

litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write15,967 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

It probably would have been easy for Atticus and Heck Tate to say that Jem killed Bob Ewell, rather than tell everyone he fell on his knife.  They did not want to tell people that it was Boo Radley that killed him, because they did not want Boo to be in the public eye.

If you wanted to frame Jem for Ewell’s death, it would be pretty easy.  When Bob Ewell is killed, Atticus first assumes that Jem is the one who killed him.  He is so upset by the events that he can’t even remember how old Jem is.  He tells Sheriff Tate that it was self-defense, and Jem would be tried in a county court.

Sheriff Tate does not think that Jem killed Bob Ewell.

“Mr. Finch, do you think Jem killed Bob Ewell? Do you think that?”

“You heard what Scout said, there’s no doubt about it. She said Jem got up and yanked him off her—he probably got hold of Ewell’s knife somehow in the dark… we’ll find out tomorrow.” (Ch. 30) 

There is limited evidence, but Atticus seems to think that the evidence that Jem pulled Bob Ewell off of Scout is enough to convict him.  If you were framing Jem for the killing, you would focus on that fact.  Also, since Atticus and Heck Tate told no one about Boo Radley, no one would know who actually did it. 

Atticus was concerned that people would assume that Jem got away with murder. 

“… I don’t want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don’t want anybody saying, ‘Jem Finch… his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that.’ Sooner we get this over with the better.” (Ch. 30) 

The story that they settle on is that Bob Ewell fell on his knife.  They seem to assume no one will question them.  Bob Ewell was drunk and he did attack two kids.  Who cares what really happened to him?  People would not ask many questions.  If someone did decide to question the story, Jem would be the logical target.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial