Whether or not it is failure to live up to his name--Robert E. Lee Ewell, a name of a general of the Confederency, such a name that Atticus contends makes a man a steady and slow drinker--Bob Ewell is a character who behaves reprehensibly. In Chapter 27, the Finches learn of three separate incidents:
- Bob Ewell is fired from a WPA job, an action that is unheard of, but he was so lazy that he was let go. When Ewell went back to the welfare office, he muttered that "the bastards who thought they ran this town wouldn't permit an hones man to make a living," openly accusing Atticus of causing him to be fired.
- One Sunday night while Mrs. Taylor was at church, Judge Taylor sat reading in his house, when he heard a scratching noise in the rear of his house. When he walked to the back porch to let his dog out, the screen door was swinging and his eye caught a shadow on the corner of the house. After that, the judge sat with a loaded shotgun across his lap, suspecting the visit was from Ewell.
- After Tom's death, Mr. Link Deas hired Helen Robinson as his cook. Since she lives on the same road as the Ewell's, she walks about a mile out of her way to avoid them. When Mr. Link learns of this, he walks Helen past the Ewells and calls to them, warning Bob. But, when Helen walks past the Ewells, Bob comes out and follows behind her, uttering foul words. So, Mr. Link again confront the reprobate, threatening to press assault charges. This was the end of Helen's trouble from Ewell, fortunately.
After learning of these incidents, Alexandra tells Atticus that she is disturbed by them.
"That man seems to have a permanent grudge against everybody connected with that case. I know how that kind are about paying off grudges, but I don't understand why he should harbor one--he had his way in court, didn't he?"
In his liberal way, Atticus replies that Ewell is disappointed that people did not believe "his and Mayella's yarns....He'll settle down when the weather changes." Unfortunately, the more suspicious Alexandra is right to be alarmed about Ewell, as these incidents presage things to come.