What are the events leading up to the attack on the children in To Kill a Mockingbird?Discuss leading up to, during and after the events. 

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Scout and Jem are attacked walking home from the school pageant at night.  Scout is trapped in a costume and does not see much, and Jem’s arm is broken.  When the struggle is over, there is a knife cut in Scout’s costume and Bob Ewell is dead.  Boo Radley killed him, and saved the children.

These are the events that led to that fateful night.

1.        Tom Robinson is nice to Mayella Ewell.

The first event that led to Bob Ewell’s attack on the children was the friendship between Bob’s daughter Mayella and a black man named Tom Robinson.  Since Bob Ewell (and most of Maycomb) was a racist, he could not accept his daughter’s relationship with a black man.  As a result, she accused Tom of rape in order to hide their friendship.

Atticus sighed. "I'm simply defending a Negro- his name's Tom Robinson. He lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump. He's a member of Calpurnia's church, and Cal knows his family well. (ch 9)

2.       Atticus is chosen to defend Tom Robinson.

Atticus Finch was one of the most respected members of Maycomb society, and he was also a highly moral man.  It was for these reasons that he was chosen to defend Tom at his rape trial.  Atticus was chosen because he could make people think.

"It was no accident … Atticus Finch won't win, he can't win, but he's the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that. (ch 21)

 3.       Atticus proves that Bob Ewell was the one that beat up Mayella.

It becomes clear at the trial that Tom Robinson could not have committed the crime, because he was crippled.  Atticus proves that Bob Ewell did not go for a doctor, and that only Ewell could have hit her on the side of her face.

Atticus was trying to show, it seemed to me, that Mr. Ewell could have beaten up Mayella. (ch 17)

 4.       Bob Ewell spits in Atticus’s face.

Bob Ewell is offended by Atticus’s treatment of him.  Even though Tom Robinson is not acquitted, Atticus made a fool of him.

Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, Spat in his face, and told him he'd get him if it took the rest of his life. (ch 21)

 5.       Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout and Boo Radley intervenes.

We have finally reached the point of the attack.  Bob Ewell tries to get revenge on Atticus by attacking his children with a knife.  He clearly intends to kill them or hurt them badly.  Boo Radley has been protecting them all along, and he sees what happens and intervenes.  He kills Ewell, and takes the children home.  Scout does not realize that it is Boo Radley at first.  She is shocked when she sees him.

A strange small spasm shook him, as if he heard fingernails scrape slate, but as I gazed at him in wonder the tension slowly drained from his face. His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbor's image blurred with my sudden tears. (ch 29)

6. Heck Tate and Atticus decide not to tell anyone that Boo killed Ewell, to protect his privacy.

Atticus thinks that Jem killed Bob Ewell at first.  When he realizes what happens, Heck Tate, the sherrif, convinces him not to tell anyone that it was Boo Radley. 

There's a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it's dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch. (ch 30)