What does Bob Ewell mean when he says "I most positively am not, I can use one hand good as the other" towards the end of Chapter 17 in To Kill a Mockingbird?When asked if he is ambidextrous, Bob...
What does Bob Ewell mean when he says "I most positively am not, I can use one hand good as the other" towards the end of Chapter 17 in To Kill a Mockingbird?
When asked if he is ambidextrous, Bob Ewell says he is not. How is this the case if he claims to be able to use one hand as well as the other?
Author Harper Lee is having a little fun with the reader at the expense of Bob Ewell, and there are several reasons for it. First, she is trying to tone down the tense atmosphere in the courtroom, which exploded moments earlier after Bob testified that
"--I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella!"
While Bob is busy "endearing himself to his fellow citizens," Lee uses Atticus to establish Bob as the possible assailant and prosecutor Horace Gilmer to make him look foolish. Atticus must have already known that Bob is left-handed or he would not have asked him to write his name. Bob is angry at being forced to prove he can write, assuming that it was part of Atticus's "trickery." When Gilmer cross-examines Bob, the prosecutor asks him
"... are you ambidextrous?"
"I most positively am not, I can use one hand good as the other. One hand good as the other..."
The answer is humorous because Bob does not understand the meaning of this big word--the definition of ambidextrous. Bob's answer makes him look a bit foolish and ignorant, and in the balcony,
Jem seemed to be having a quiet fit.
Bob's answer, without him realizing it, also makes him a suspect: While Tom's crippled left arm prevented him from hitting Mayella on the right side of the face or creating bruises all the way around her neck, Bob has admitted that he is both left-handed and capable of using "one hand as good as the other."