What perspective does Mayella Ewell give during her testimony in the courtroom n Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Mayella Ewell takes the witness stand in Chapter 18 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Mayella makes several statements that contradict other testimonies.

First, when asked to testify by the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Gilmer, she begins sobbing, saying she is afraid Atticus will discredit her like he discredited her father, "tryin' to make him out lefthanded." Interestingly, her statement makes it sound like it is untrue her father is left-handed, yet Atticus didn't "try" to do anything; Bob Ewell very clearly proved to the court he is left-handed by writing with his left hand, a very critical point in discrediting the Ewells as reliable witnesses.

Second, Mayella testifies that she had asked Tom Robinson to chop up an "old chiffarobe" to use as kindling and went into the house to pay him a nickle when he followed her inside and attacked her. She further testifies that moment was the only time she had asked Robinson to perform an odd job for her. However, according to Robinson's testimony, she had asked him to do the favor "last spring, way over a year ago" (Ch. 19). Since that day, Robinson had performed odd jobs for each time she asked.

Mayella further testifies that Robinson had knocked her unconscious and the "next thing [she] knew Papa was in the room a'standing over [her] hollerin' who done it, who done it?" (Ch. 19). However, her statement contradicts her father's previous statement, who testified that he rushed to the house as soon as he heard her screaming and, through the window, actually saw Robinson attacking Mayella.

Finally, when Atticus asks Mayella to explain how Robinson could have managed to rape her, hit her in the right side of her face, or strangle her, she is unable to answer since she knows Robinson is crippled in both his left arm and hand.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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