In chapter 17, Bob Ewell is called to the witness stand to testify and is depicted as a cocky, ignorant man who is arrogant, ill-mannered, and irritable. Before Bob Ewell testifies, Scout offers a brief background on the Ewells and portrays them as the most despicable family in Maycomb. As a father, Bob Ewell does not value education, and none of his children attend school. In addition to not attending school, the Ewell children live in filth, and Scout mentions that no public health officer could free them from "congenital defects, various worms, and the diseases indigenous to filthy surroundings." Bob and his children rummage through the Maycomb dump every day and rely on welfare checks to survive. Bob Ewell is also a notorious alcoholic, who abuses his children and spends his relief checks on whiskey. Essentially, Bob Ewell is a terrible father, and Mayella takes on the responsibility of raising her siblings, which is revealed in chapter 18.
Despite his horrible reputation, Bob Ewell assumes an air of confidence on the witness stand and lacks discretion when answering questions. He boldly repeats his fabricated story to Mr. Gilmer and uses racial slurs to describe Tom Robinson. Bob Ewell unabashedly describes what he witnessed on the evening of November 21 by saying, "I seen that black n***** yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!" Despite his cocky demeanor, Bob Ewell is suspicious of Atticus and answers his questions with caution. After Bob signs his name and proves that he is left-handed, he realizes that he is has been "tricked" by Atticus and loses his temper. Bob claims that Atticus took advantage of him and reiterates his story that Tom Robinson raped his daughter.