What is the purpose of Burris Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird?Why does Harper Lee put him in the book?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe author Harper Lee creates the character of Burris Ewell for several reasons. First, he serves to foreshadow the evil that is found in his father, Bob. Burris illustrates that the nut does not fall far from the tree and that he will follow in his father's footsteps, maintaining the Ewell reputation of being "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations." Burris will no doubt be the fourth generation should he live to adulthood. Like Bob, he is crude and dirty--both hygienically and socially: He is "the filthiest human I had ever seen," according to Scout, with lice-ridden hair and covered in dirt. He threatens Miss Caroline and then calls her a "snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher" before he "shuffled out of the building." By doing so, Burris also serves the purpose of making Miss Caroline's difficult first day even worse. Burris makes her life miserable and leaves her crying, just as Bob treats his daughter, Mayella. Burris's behavior and appearance also shows the contrast between the other poor but respectable children in the classroom, like Walter Cunningham Jr. and Little Chuck Little. Following in the tradition of his father, Burris personifies the term "white trash."

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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