In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Scout's statement that "she [Mayella] was even lonelier than Boo Radley" mean? 

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During Tom Robinson's trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout observes Mayella discussing her solitary life. The woman lives alone with no friends or family to speak of and goes about a very isolated routine. Mayella is also mixed race, and so she has a hard time identifying with...

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During Tom Robinson's trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout observes Mayella discussing her solitary life. The woman lives alone with no friends or family to speak of and goes about a very isolated routine. Mayella is also mixed race, and so she has a hard time identifying with members of either the White community or the African-American one, which makes her life even more isolated and secluded, which Scout reckons must be even more isolated than her neighbor, Boo Radley's.

Tom comes around occasionally, showing compassion by helping her with chores and taking care of things around the house. He is a gentle and kind man, but Mayella uses his visits as an opportunity to take advantage of him and harm him—eventually sending him to his death in jail. While she is lonely and takes solace in the one person who visits her, she is still willing to turn on him and frame him for a crime he didn't commit.

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During Tom Robinson's testimony in chapter 19, he testifies that he helped Mayella complete her chores several times and would often talk to her whenever he walked past her home. As Tom is giving his testimony, Scout thinks about Mayella Ewell and concludes that she is "even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty-five years." Scout's enigmatic and reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley, rarely leaves his home and has no social interactions or friends. Boo Radley's reclusiveness is notorious throughout the community and his character is surrounded by negative rumors and neighborhood legends.

After listening to Mayella describe her isolated life, Scout expresses sympathy for her and likens Mayella to Boo Radley. Similar to Boo Radley, Mayella rarely leaves her home and also has no friends. After contemplating Mayella's lonely existence, Scout says that Mayella is as sad as a "mixed child" who does not belong to the white or black communities. Scout believes that Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to Mayella.

Scout realizes that Mayella must have been so lonely that her interactions with Tom Robinson were the closest thing to real friendship that she ever experienced, which is unfortunate and depressing. Despite Tom's compassionate, polite nature, Mayella took advantage of him and viewed him with contempt whenever she sat on the witness stand. Scout demonstrates remarkable maturity and understanding by recognizing Mayella's hypocrisy on the witness stand.

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As Scout listens to the testimony of Tom Robinson, Scout reasons that Mayella Ewell "must have been the loneliest person in the world," even more so than Boo Radley. For, when Atticus asks her if she has any friends, Mayella is confused by his question, not knowing what he meant; moreover, she interprets his question as an attempt to ridicule her. 

Scout deduces that Mayella is a social pariah; she lives by the garbage dump in squalor and is shunned by white people. And, because she is white, the black residents of Maycomb avoid her. Clearly, Mayella's calling to Tom Robinson indicates her terrible loneliness as she is left by herself most of the day, Scout figures; further,

Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her.

But, when she is in the courtroom before the white people, she says that he has taken advantage of her, and as she steps down from the witness stand, she looks at Tom "as if he were dirt beneath her feet."

Perhaps better than any other courtroom scene, this one demonstrates the skewered values of the Ewells. When she was lonely and craved attention, Tom Robinson was called to and appreciated. But, faced with the jury of twelve white men and threatened by her brutish father, Mayella hypocritically acts as though she is superior to Tom and has not wanted his attention. She cares not for his welfare and is only concerned with how she appears to the jury and those in the courtroom.

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Though the novel demands that we view Mayella from a child's relatively naive position, Scout is attuned to her loneliness in ways that the adults around her are not, though Scout cannot understand the structural impediments to Mayella's happiness.

The Ewells are condemned as "poor white trash." Their only recourse for feeling better about themselves is to take refuge in their whiteness and hate black people. This animus is turned onto Tom, one of the few people to come near them. 

It is significant that Mayella's mother is dead. Because she is the eldest of the family, she has usurped the role of mother to her younger siblings and, possibly, that of "wife" to her father. One could read the possibility of incest into Mayella's relationship with her father, due to his venomous jealousy toward his daughter's friendship with Tom. 

Mayella, like most Southern white women at the time, was regarded as the possession of a white man—in this case, her father. The sense of entitlement that Southern white men expressed in their relations to white women expressly forbade any intermingling with black men. Tom represents fears, both sexual and political, that were used to justify segregation.

Mayella, however, is unable to have friendships with whites, due to her class, and is forbidden from relating with blacks, due to her race, and is especially forbidden to have any relationship with black men due to the parameters set by her race and gender. When the prosecutor registers surprise at Tom's comment that he felt sorry for Mayella, it is because he finds it impossible to believe that a black person could have any reason to feel sorry for a white one. As a white man, he does not recognize the ways in which he and other white men restrict the freedoms of white women, and, as a man with an education and a middle-class status, he does not recognize the way in which Mayella's poverty isolates her.

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Boo and Mayella may well have been the two loneliest people in Maycomb, but Mayella took even more extreme measures than Boo to make friends. Whether Boo knew about his reputation as Maycomb's leading ghoul, his reclusive position in his house was at least voluntary; he could have chosen to venture out into the neighborhood had he wanted. He would have been welcomed by Atticus and Miss Maudie, and the children would probably have learned to accept him--as Scout did in the final chapter. Mayella, however, had little choice in the matter. She was stuck at her home on the edge of town, responsible for taking care of her younger siblings. She had no friends of her own, no money, and no one visited her despised family. Few people passed her way accept for Tom Robinson--a married African-American man. Although the Ewells apparently despised their Negro neighbors, Tom appeared to be her only choice for companionship. So, when he entered her home, she took a chance on one of the least likely persons imaginable to be interested in her advances.

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