What is Atticus' response when Bob Ewell asks him if he is too afraid to fight?

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 23 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird we find Atticus Finch being victimized by Bob Ewell. Atticus has basically exposed Mr. Ewell for the lies he tells and the way of life with which he carries on in Maycomb. As a result, Ewell is mad and wishes to destroy Atticus Finch.

The specific incident of victimization and bullying occurs at the beginning of this chapter, when Ewell not only spits his tobacco at Atticus, but tempts him to fight by calling him names that people would not even repeat.

One of the questions Ewell asks is whether Atticus is too proud to fight him. To this, Atticus answers:

 No, too old, [he then] put his hands in his pockets and strolled on.

We as readers can conclude that Atticus is not a man of war. He would not lower himself to the nonsensical and immature behavior of a man like Ewell. He, contrastingly, took the situation quite lightly and simply said about it:

I wish Bob Ewell wouldn't chew tobacco.

We also know that Atticus refuses to get a gun, and does not seem to be too afraid of the social wrath to which he has become exposed as a result of Tom Robinson's trial. In all, he is a gentleman's gentleman and an extremely courageous man who does not have to show his strength by the use of his hands, but by his appeal to common sense.

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the beginning of Chapter 23, Scout recounts the story about Atticus and Bob Ewell's encounter at the post office. According to Miss Stephanie Crawford, Bob Ewell spat in Atticus' face and threatened to kill him. Atticus did not react with anger and calmly wiped the spit from his glasses while Bob Ewell proceeded to curse at him. Bob Ewell then asked Atticus if he was too proud to fight, and Atticus responded by saying, "No, too old" (Lee 134). Atticus' calm reactions portray his tolerant, morally upright personality. Atticus realizes that he essentially ruined Bob Ewell's reputation during the trial and expected Bob to react the way he did. However, Atticus believes that Bob Ewell got all of the hate out of his system after Bob spat in his face, but Atticus is wrong. Later on in the novel, Bob Ewell seeks revenge by attempting to kill Jem and Scout. 

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