What are examples of the theme of revenge in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main act of revenge that is notable in the book is Bob Ewell, who attacks Jem and Scout because he is mad at Atticus for exposing him as an abusive, foolish, racist drunk.  Atticus, through his questioning of Bob and Mayella, is able to pretty clearly show that Tom was innocent, and that Bob had framed Tom to cover for his abuse of his daughter, and because he knew he could get away with it.  Bob had wounded pride, and took it out on Atticus through the attack on his children.  That didn't end well for him.  Mayella played a role in the revenge theme herself when she turned on Tom and accused him of rape; she was insulted that he did not accept her romantic advances.  She was hurt and felt betrayed, so turned on him, and the accusation of rape was her revenge for being jilted.

In smaller ways, revenge flows throughout the book with other characters too.  Take for instance Jem destroying Mrs. Dubose's flowers.  He did that because of all of her nasty comments about them and their family.  That act of revenge didn't go over too well, as Atticus made him make up for it by reading to her until her death.  Atticus did not condone revenge, and actively fought against it through this assignment given to Jem.  Scout gets revenge on her cousin Francis when he starts teasing and taunting her about her father, and beats him up.  She also gets in trouble from Atticus for that act.

Revenge, in this book, is shown to be an unpleasant and unrewarding endeavor.  It never is satisfying and always has a bad result.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Other examples of revenge in To Kill a Mockingbird:

  • After Scout contradicts Jem's explanation of "Hot Steams," he deliberately pushes Scout--who is lodged inside a spare tire--harder than usual, and she ends up at the bottom of the Radley front steps.
  • When Scout gets in trouble with Miss Caroline for defending Walter Cunningham Jr., Scout childishly blames Walter. So she rubs "his nose in the dirt" during lunch break.
  • When Mr. Avery blames Scout and Jem--or, at least, "bad children like you"--for the unseasonable snowfall, the kids build a snowman in his image in order to mock him.
  • Bob Ewell apparently seeks revenge against Judge Taylor (even though Tom Robinson was convicted of actions against his daughter) on the night when the judge sees "a shadow on the corner of the house."
  • Bob also harasses Tom's widow, Helen, in retaliation for her husband's supposed actions against Mayella.
  • Bob beats Mayella (apparently) after catching her with Tom.
jblederman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Revenge itself is a theme, and the consequences of seeking revenge. There are several examples of this in the novel.

Jem seeks revenge against Mrs. Dubose and destroys her prize camellia bushes. The consequences are that Atticus forces Jem to read to her. During this process, Jem learns of her morphine addiction and learns a different definition of the term "courage."

Mayella Ewell seeks revenge on Tom for his spurning of her advances. The consequences are that he is found guilty of rape and is killed while trying to escape prison. Atticus had told Tom to wait for an appeal, but Tom thought his situation was so hopeless that he could not do so.

Bob Ewell seeks revenge against Atticus daring to question Bob's statements in court, and for defending Tom to the best of Atticus' ability. Ewell does this by attacking the children. The consequences are that Ewell is killed by Boo.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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