"Mr. Ewell found himself as forgotten as Tom Robinson." Why is this so sad in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The trial of Tom Robinson was a major event for little Maycomb.

     It was a gala occasion. There was no room at the public hitching rail for another animal... The courthouse square was covered with picnic parties...
     We knew there was a crowd, but we had not bargained for the multitudes...

For Bob Ewell, it was a big moment. He was one of the star witnesses, and he expected to receive sympathy from the town for the terrible crime perpetrated against his daughter. He expected everyone to believe his tale about Tom raping Mayella, and he must have assumed that by the end of the trial he would be a sort of minor celebrity instead of being part of the family that was "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations." However, Atticus meant to defend Tom to the best of his ability, and he quickly brought serious doubt to many of Bob's and Mayella's statements. Bob may not have immediately understood the importance of his being left-handed and Tom's left arm being crippled, but it was obvious to the children (and probably everyone else in the courtroom) that Tom could not have been guilty of the accusastions against him. The fact that Mayella's attacker must have been left-handed implied that Bob may have been the one to beat her.

Although the jury eventually convicted Tom, Bob's already abysmal reputation was further damaged by Atticus' determined cross-examination. During Atticus' summation, he accused Mayella of lying and that she "tempted a Negro"--a charge that only denigrated the Ewells even further. Atticus recognized what he had done to Bob:

"I destroyed his last shred of credibility at the trial, if he had any to begin with.

Following the trial and, later, Tom's death, "the town was interested by the news... for perhaps two days..." Bob even managed to get a job, which he lost "in a matter of days." He returned to his old ways, picking up his weekly welfare check "with no grace amid obscure mutterings..."

As for Tom, he was soon forgotten by the white people of Maycomb--a black man accused of a capital crime who got what he deserved in the end. While Jem and Scout and Atticus--and Tom's friends in the Quarters--would not soon forget Tom's unjust conviction and tragic death, his absence meant little to most of Maycomb. He was soon forgotten, and Bob Ewell returned to his disgraceful habits, and things were normal in Maycomb once again.

beca04 | Student

Because being african american Tom Robinson is ignored and forgotten, but this is normal for him because of his color and the racial tension in Maycomb. Mr. Ewell is white so he should be as important as the other citizins, but because of his lack of income he is forgotten just as much as Tom Robinson is.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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