In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Bob Ewell get money?

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Bob Ewell gets his income from relief checks.

The Ewell’s get public assistance, or welfare.  None of them seems to ever have had a job, and they eschew education.  The children go to school for one day a year and stay home the rest of the time.  Atticus explains to ...

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Bob Ewell gets his income from relief checks.

The Ewell’s get public assistance, or welfare.  None of them seems to ever have had a job, and they eschew education.  The children go to school for one day a year and stay home the rest of the time.  Atticus explains to Scout that when it comes to the Ewells, the law just looks the other way.

Atticus said the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations. None of them had done an honest day’s work in his recollection. …They were people, but they lived like animals. (Ch. 3)

These are pretty strong words for Atticus Finch, who is usually very understanding of other people and not judgmental.  He doesn’t approve of the way Bob Ewell treats his children.  His wife is long gone, and no one knows how many children he has.

The Ewells live near the dump and subsist on hunting and relief checks (welfare money).  Atticus tells Scout that the reason Bob Ewell is allowed to hunt out of season is because everyone is aware that his children are starving.

“It’s against the law, all right,” said my father, “and it’s certainly bad, but when a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains. I don’t know of any landowner around here who begrudges those children any game their father can hit.” (Ch. 3)

The Ewells' situation becomes everyone’s business when Mayella Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of rape.  The Ewells may be on the bottom rungs of Maycomb’s social ladder, but they are still white, and Tom Robinson is black.  Therefore the case becomes big news, and the Ewells and their habits enter the spotlight.

Atticus sets out to prove during the trial that Bob Ewell was abusive to Mayella, and that he is the one who beat her up and not Tom Robinson.  He establishes that Mayella is lonely and asked Tom Robinson for help because he was a handsome and approachable man who wouldn't be rude to a white lady.  Bob Ewell is embarrassed by the whole thing, and threatens Atticus and then tries to attack his children.

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