To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
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How do the Ewells help develop the idea that reality can be harsh and unfair in To Kill a Mockingbird? I need three points, and so far, I've got two; Mayella and Bob Ewell used Tom Robinson as a scapegoat for Bob Ewell's actions and that Bob Ewell insulted Atticus in public, which destroys the whole small, peaceful town stereotype.

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I agree with your examples and here is a counter-perspective that proves the same point.

Reality is harsh and unfair in any context. In the context of the Reality of Maycomb, the reality is a quaint small town with quite obvious historical baggage of racism. Going along with this idea, we might say reality is the cultural thinking and practices of a certain place in a certain time in history. Atticus is the prime example of one who recognizes the reality of the town he lives in, but is able to persevere despite the lack of justice (Tom’s conviction) and the general racist tendencies of many in the town. The Ewells definitely stand out as the antagonists in the story. But notice how Mayella herself is at least partially the victim of her own place in this town in this time (her reality). She is born into an illiterate family where the burden of raising the children falls squarely on her shoulders. Tom is the only one in the novel who reaches out to her. We can’t excuse her lying in court, but she was caught between trying to appease her father and trying to avoid the scorn of the town. That peer pressure and the historical and familial circumstances in which she was literally born into make reality very harsh and unfair for her. She should overcome this in court since Tom was just trying to help, but I have some sympathy for her since she was the product of such a broken home and a racist town. Some sympathy, but can’t excuse what she did.

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