How does Mayella incriminate her father on the witness stand in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus manages to squeeze some important information from the frightened Mayella during her emotional time on the witness stand. First, Atticus gets Mayella to admit that Bob is not always the perfect father. When Atticus asks if Bob is always good to her, she tells Atticus that

     "He does tollable, 'cept when--"
     "... Except when he's drinking?" asked Atticus so gently that Mayella nodded.  (Chapter 18)

Although Mayella does not give Atticus an audible answer, it is clear that Bob is a different man when he is drinking. Bob has already testified that he saw Tom "ruttin' on my Mayella," and that her face was bruised, but when Atticus asks her if she could "remember him beating you about the face," Mayella responds,

     "No, I don't recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me."
     "Was your last sentence your answer?"
     "Huh? Yes he hit--I just don't remember... it all happened so quick."  (Chapter 18)

When Atticus later asks if it was Bob who had beaten her, Mayella does not deny it, choosing to remain silent. Perhaps the most incriminating evidence against Bob comes during Tom's testimony, when he claims that Bob threatened Mayella after catching her with Tom.

"... you goddam whore, I'll kill ya!"  (Chapter 19)


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