What are 5 quotes about the social status of Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Bob Ewell and his family are social outcasts in Maycomb.

The first example of Bob Ewell’s social status is when his young son Burris appears in Scout's class.  It is through Burris that we are introduced to the priorities and conditions of the Ewell family.  The teacher Miss Caroline is upset when she finds lice in Burris’s hair.  She tells him to go home and take a bath.  He laughs at her and says he has done his time for the year—she is not sending him home, he was about to go home himself.  Scout and one her classmates decide to explain the Ewells to her flustered teacher.

“He’s one of the Ewells, ma’am,” and I wondered if this explanation would be as unsuccessful as my attempt. But Miss Caroline seemed willing to listen. “Whole school’s full of ‘em. They come first day every year and then leave. (Ch. 3)

This quote demonstrates that the Ewells have a reputation.  Everyone expects them to be dirty, ornery, and illiterate.  We learn that there are a lot of Ewell children, but they are all pretty much like little Burris, who has been in first grade for three years.  Little Chuck Little stands up for the teacher and forces Burris to leave, and he responds by calling the teacher a “slut.”

Even Atticus, who seems willing to offer respect and compassion for anyone, appears to have none for the Ewells.

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)

Atticus tells Scout that the Ewells prefer to live this way, and there is no way to make them change.  They do not work within the system, and the system just allows it.  Exceptions are made for them because they are unable or unwilling to exist within the civilized world.  Scout says that she has never heard her father talk about anyone else the way he talks about the Ewells, whom he called “trash” (Ch. 12).

Although having been a member of the town for the longest time usually gains a person respect, this is not the case with the Ewells.  Their family is not respected.  Their ways are passed down from generation to generation.

The tribe of which Burris Ewell and his brethren consisted had lived on the same plot of earth behind the Maycomb dump, and had thrived on county welfare money for three generations. (Ch. 13)

The town is used to its opinion of the Ewells, and the Ewells are used to the town’s opinion of them.  However, as poor and disparaged as the Ewells are, they are still higher than the blacks in the town’s hierarchy.  Racism requires people to stand up for the Ewells rather than the Robinsons, because they are white and the Robinsons are not.

All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbors was, that if scrubbed with lye soap in very hot water, his skin was white. (Ch. 17)

The Ewells live near the town dump.  They subsist on welfare and hunting rabbits and squirrels.  The children are uneducated, dirty, and infected.  Mayella is the only Ewell that attempts to keep herself clean and have pretty things in the yard.

Bob Ewell is known to be a drunkard, and is portrayed as ignorant and abusive.  Scout reflects during the trial that the Ewells are outcasts among their own people, white people, because they live “among pigs,” but blacks are not supposed to associate with them because they are white.

Nobody said, “That’s just their way,” about the Ewells. Maycomb gave them Christmas baskets, welfare money, and the back of its hand. (Ch. 19)

The Ewells exist outside of the society of Maycomb.  Other than with a few token efforts, no one attempts to help them because they do not help themselves.




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To Kill a Mockingbird

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