In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, why was Bob Ewell so against women? If he was, what are some quotes that prove so?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, while there are no direct statements about Bob Ewell's disrespect of women, we can deduce he disrespects women, as well as humanity in general, based on many things said about him and many of his actions.

One can also assume he feels disrespectful towards women and all of humanity because he was raised with significant disrespect himself. As Atticus informs Scout early on in the novel, "The Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations" because not a single Ewell has "done an honest day's work" in his/her life; all Ewells live off of the charity of Maycomb (Ch. 3). Since Bob Ewell was not raised with enough respect to make him believe he can and should make something of himself, he treats all around him with the same amount of disrespect.

One point of evidence that shows Ewell feels disrespect towards women concerns Mayella's education. Just like all three generations of Ewells in Maycomb County, the present generation of Ewells is uneducated. Only Ewell and Mayella know how to read and write. Ewell allowed his daughter to attend school long enough to learn how to read and write, which according to Mayella was about "two year--three year--dunno," but took her out of school to take care of the children. All of the children are also kept from school. Mayella claims that her father needs the children at home, but the Ewells do not live on a farm; they live in a trash heap near the county dump, and no chores are done around the house except any chores Mayella tends to. Ewell forcing his children to remain at home shows how much disrespect he has for women and children; he sees them as worthless beings unworthy of an education or the opportunity to make something of their lives just as he makes nothing of his own life.

A second point of evidence that shows Ewell has no respect for women concerns his treatment of Tom Robinson's widow, Helen Robinson. Helen is completely innocent, yet Ewell allows his family to throw things at her as she walks past their house to her new job as a cook at Link Deas's house. When Deas threatens Ewells' family with the law, the family members stop throwing things at her, but Ewell himself follows her all the way to Deas's house; Helen reports that, during the whole time he was following her, she "heard a soft voice behind her, crooning foul words" (Ch. 27).

Further evidence of Ewell's disrespect for women and humanity in general concerns information that comes up in testimonies during the trial. Evidence from the trial points to Ewell being an abusive alcoholic and that the seven young children in his home were actually begotten through his improper, incestuous treatment of Mayella.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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