What does Atticus say about Bob Ewell's guilt?

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It's patently obvious that Tom Robinson isn't guilty of the rape and assault of Mayella Ewell. But this is the Deep South in the 1930s. Racial prejudice is rampant, and an African American male falsely accused of raping a white woman stands virtually no chance of getting justice. Nevertheless, Atticus has to do his damnedest to give Tom the very best defense he can provide. Although he knows full well that the members of the jury have already made up their minds as to Tom's guilt, he's still going to try and sow some deeds of reasonable doubt in their minds.

That's where Bob Ewell comes in. Everyone in Maycomb knows just what he's like—and no one likes what they see. Atticus tries to play upon the near-universal loathing that Bob inspires among the townsfolk in accusing him of beating Mayella. Her facial injuries suggest that she was attacked by someone leading with his left. Yet, as everyone with eyes can see, Tom's left hand isn't strong enough, as his whole left arm has been virtually useless since a childhood accident.

In his summing up to the jury, Atticus also makes reference to the unwritten code that he knows that they all share—that any kind of mixing between the races is strictly taboo in this deeply segregated society. So he tries to combine the predominant social view with the physical evidence written all over Mayella's face to put forward his theory of what happened. Bob Ewell attacked and beat his daughter and then tried to pin the blame on an African American, knowing full well just how offensive such an action would be in this small Southern town.

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During Atticus' closing remarks he explains how Mayella felt guilty about breaking the "time-honored code" by seducing a black man. He mentions that her father, Bob Ewell, witnessed the encounter and elaborates on Bob's reaction. He says that they don't know for sure, "but there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led almost exclusively with his left." (Lee 272) He says that they do know Bob Ewell "swore out a warrant" that resulted in Tom Robinson's arrest. Atticus makes it clear to the jury that Bob Ewell witnessed Mayella physically interact with Tom Robinson and beat her shortly after. In 1930's Alabama, interracial relationships were viewed with contempt and was the reason Bob Ewell beat his daughter. Earlier in the trial, Atticus makes Bob write his signature. Bob's signature indicates that he is left-handed. When Tom Robinson is on the witness stand, the jury finds out that he has a crippled left arm. Mayella's injuries were predominately to the right side of her face, which suggests that a left-handed person beat her. This evidence infers that Bob Ewell beat his daughter. Atticus explains Bob's motivation to beat his daughter and claim Tom Robinson raped her. Bob was attempting to protect his family's integrity and cover up his brutal assault on his daughter.

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