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Not only are the Ewells "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations," they are also probably the most cowardly family in town. Bob Ewell has no apparent redeeming qualities: He refuses to maintain a job and support his family; he drinks up his welfare check and hides out in the swamp for days at a time; and he blames others for his own mistakes and weaknesses. Bob's most cowardly action comes near the end of the novel when he tries to murder Jem and Scout instead of facing Atticus man-to-man. He does not restrict himself to assaulting children: He also beats his daughter, Mayella, and there is the suggestion that he also maintains an incestuous relationship with her. Instead of owning up to this, Bob concocts a story that puts the blame squarely on Tom Robinson, and he convinces Mayella to go along with it. Bob's other cowardly actions include:
- Stalking Helen Robinson from a distance and cursing at her.
- Prowling about Judge Taylor's property, probably in the hope of catching the judge off-guard and killing him.
- Blaming Atticus when Bob is fired from his job with the WPA.
- Hiding from view, "a-layin' on the floor," in his house when Link Deas comes to question him about stalking Helen.
Mayella's cowardly turn comes when she accuses Tom--perhaps the only man to ever treat her kindly--of the beating (and rape) inflicted by her father. Bob's son, Burris, also shows a yellow streak when he disrespects his first grade teacher, Miss Caroline. Burris backs down, however, when Little Chuck Little threatens him with a knife.