Mayella Ewell is portrayed as an ignorant young woman who grows up in a difficult, unfortunate environment. During her testimony, it is revealed that Mayella has no friends, spends the majority of her personal time raising her siblings, and is a victim of both physical and sexual abuse. Harper Lee creates sympathy for Mayella Ewell's character by mentioning that Mayella takes care of a beautiful row of red geraniums in her otherwise despicable yard and is forced to live with an abusive, alcoholic father. Mayella has not had a similar experience growing up as Scout and also lacks the opportunities and role models to develop into a respectable woman with integrity.
Mayella made the fateful decision to kiss Tom Robinson, which is something she immediately regrets once her father finds out. Mayella's father beat her severely and more than likely forced her to testify that Tom Robinson raped her. In addition to her father's possible threats, Mayella also did not want to suffer the embarrassment from the community regarding her relations with a black man. Despite the fact that Mayella is depicted as a malevolent, dishonest individual who falsely accuses an innocent black man of assaulting and raping her, one can surmise that she also felt threatened by her abusive father to testify against Tom Robinson. Atticus describes Mayella's situation best in his closing remarks by saying,
She [Mayella] is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: she is white. She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted in breaking it. She persisted, and her subsequent reaction is something that all of us have known at one time or another. She did something every child has done—she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her. But in this case she was no child hiding stolen contraband: she struck out at her victim—of necessity she must put him away from her—he must be removed from her presence, from this world. She must destroy the evidence of her offense.