What are three characteristics of the Ewells as described in Chapter 17 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird, we get a good description of the Ewell's background and living conditions during their testimony at the trial and through Scout’s narration.  As Scout is watching the proceedings, she gives the readers a little information about the Ewells.  She tells us that they are always on welfare, and they live near the black shanty town behind the town dump.  She also says that they forage for food, water, and furniture in the dump.  We also learn through Heck Tate’s testimony that Mayella shows signs of being beaten when he investigates the crime in which Tom Robinson is accused.  Sheriff Tate asks her who beat her, and she identifies Tom Robinson.  As readers, we know that Tom didn’t do it; it is Bob Ewell who abuses her and forces her to lie. 

Scout also gives us insight into the Ewell’s living conditions by describing how the children have worms and diseases caused by their poverty and filthy house.  Scout even notes that one time when she went with Atticus to discard their Christmas tree in the dump, she noticed how clean and neat the black homes were but how dirty and untidy the Ewell property was.  She remembers seeing a row of dirty faces pressed against the window as they passed the house.  The Ewell children live a terrible existence with horrific living conditions and an abusive father who does not care if they are educated.  The children never get the opportunity to attend school, much like Burris Ewell shows at the beginning of the novel. 

In the chapter, Scout also describes Bob Ewell as a “little bantam cock of a man.”  This description implies that Ewell is a mean, uncaring man who feels he is better than everyone else.  The Ewells are the epitome of “white trash” in the town of Maycomb.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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