We learn that the Ewells live in absolute squalor which they have become habituated to over generations. However, after an extended description of the unseemly cabin and yard where they live (which is contrasted with the similarly poor, but infinitely more clean and decent living-quarters of the blacks), we get a hint of something different:
One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s.
This gives a clear hint that Mayella, at least, does strive to impart some brightness to her surroundings, and the image of the beautiful, 'brilliant' geraniums is a startling detail in the otherwise dreary yard. in this respect she is even compared to the dignified,good-hearted Miss Maudie. She is probably the only Ewell who attempts anything in this line.
Mayella's geraniums are symbolic of her wish for better things in her world, and shows that there is at least one Ewell who, in the daily grind of their sordid home life, has a certain appreciation of beauty. However, any such attempts to beautify her surroundings seem doomed to fail. The conditions of her life in general conspire to drag her down, when she is forced to falsely accuse Tom Robinson of rape at the behest of her vicious, lying father.