What events happened in To Kill a Mockingbird that upset Aunt Alexandra?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter 27 of Harper Lee's coming-of-age novel To Kill a Mockingbird does seem to suggest a pattern of activity involving Bob Ewell that collectively caused Scout's aunt, Alexandra, to worry about the town's most virulently racist and useless citizen. As the reader has by now learned, Bob Ewell is the novel's main antagonist, the personification of white trash who forced his daughter Mayella to falsely accuse Tom Robinson of rape. In the American South of the 1930s, an African American accused of raping a white woman was in serious danger, irrespective of the actual facts of any given case. The Ewells are known for their refusal to attend school as well as their patriarch's (Bob Ewell) unwillingness or inability to hold down a job, preferring instead to collect welfare checks and spend the money on alcohol. In chapter 27 of Lee's novel, the story's young narrator, Scout, describes three events that contributed to Aunt Alexandra's concern about the potential threat Bob Ewell posed to the Finch family. 

The first event Scout relates involved Bob Ewell's inability to hold a job at the Works Progress Administration, a major New Deal program initiated to help unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. Scout describes how Ewell blamed Scout's father Atticus for losing his job despite Ewell's penchant and reputation for laziness. While Atticus was entirely innocent of Ewell's claim, the ignorant, violent racist continued to blame the mild-mannered and innately decent lawyer for losing his job.

The second incident Scout describes may or may not have involved Bob Ewell. Judge Taylor was interrupted at his home by the sounds of somebody attempting to break-in—sounds that attracted the attention of the judge's dog. While the judge was only able to see "a shadow on the corner of the house," it was widely believed that the mysterious figure was Bob Ewell.

The third incident seemingly went more to the heart of Bob Ewell's nature than even the previous two events. Bob, as noted, was the cause of the improper conviction of Tom Robinson and, by extension, the latter's imprisonment and death. The satisfaction derived from Tom's imprisonment and death is not enough for an individual as vile as Bob Ewell. He now haunts Tom's widow, Helen, following her around and acting menacingly. 

It is after Scout's description of these three incidents, particularly the third event and its connection to the rape trial, that she quotes Aunt Alexandra. She concludes that her family needs to be concerned about Bob Ewell:

“I don’t like it, Atticus, I don’t like it at all,” was Aunt Alexandra’s assessment of these events. “That man seems to have a permanent running 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?”

Aunt Alexandra was prescient regarding the continuing threat to the Finches from Bob Ewell. In chapter 29, with the family still reeling from the attack on Jem and Scout, Alexandra confesses her sense of guilt for not speaking up before the children went to the festival and walked home alone:

Aunt Alexandra went to the door, but she stopped and turned. “Atticus, I had a feeling about this tonight—I—this is my fault,” she began. “I should have—”

Aunt Alexandra is in no way responsible for the events of the evening, but she had fully understood the gravity of the situation confronting the family after Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 27, Scout recounts three events that upset Aunt Alexandra. The first event takes place when Bob Ewell blames Atticus for getting him fired from his WPA job. Every week, Bob would curse and openly accuse Atticus of "getting his job" at the welfare office in front of Miss Ruth. The second event which upsets Alexandra is when Bob Ewell attempts to break into Judge Taylor's home on a Sunday night. Fortunately, Judge Taylor was home, and Bob ran away. The third event which upsets Alexandra is when Bob Ewell threatens Helen Robinson on her way to work. Aunt Alexandra tells Atticus that she doesn't like the way Bob Ewell has been acting. She tells Atticus that people like Bob Ewell hold grudges and are not afraid to avenge people who they feel have wronged them.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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