What are the importances of the characters Dolphus Raymond and Mayella Ewell?If you were to write an essay about them in To Kill a Mockingbird, why would these characters be important (why you'd...

What are the importances of the characters Dolphus Raymond and Mayella Ewell?

If you were to write an essay about them in To Kill a Mockingbird, why would these characters be important (why you'd choose them)?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dolphus Raymond and Mayella Ewell are certainly two of the most interesting characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. Though she only appears in one chapter of the novel, Mayella is one of the pivotal characters of the story. Due to her extreme loneliness, Mayella attempts to seduce the married black man, Tom Robinson. When he refuses them and attempts to leave the Ewell house--at the same time Mayella's father, Bob, returns home--Tom becomes the innocent victim of rape and assault charges. Mayella has no choice but to follow her father's lead; after Bob beats her, he contacts the sheriff and blames Tom, adding a charge of rape to the affair. Mayella goes along with her father's story in order to bury the truth and maintain the Ewells' strict racist views. She is a pitiful example of Southern womanhood--illiterate, angry, dishonest and spiteful: A girl so frightened and manhandled by her father that she attaches herself to the first man who comes her way even though the color of his skin both tempts and disgusts her.

Dolphus Raymond is a minor character, but he serves to show a different side of Maycomb's white citizenry. An eccentric white man who chooses to live with the African-Americans of the town, he enjoys confounding the white populace with his pretended drunkeness and mental instability. In truth, he thinks far more clearly than most people in Maycomb. He comes from an old and wealthy family (he owns riverfront property) and pities the town's Negroes for the way they are treated by the whites. He confides his secret to Scout and Dill because, as children, he knows they will understand his intentions.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In developing motifs and themes in their literary works, authors employ characters to exemplify these ideas.  Mayella Ewell and Dolphus Raymond serve this purpose.  As foils to each other, by contrast they point to the many tentacles that racial prejudice possesses.

Once Mayella has been caught in her desperate desire for affection, she is embarrassed and worried about its consequences in both her immediate family and in her community.  So, to disguise her unconventional actions, she fabricates her testimony to be in accord with the mores of white society. 

On the other hand, Dolphus Raymond, who once was a distinguished member of Maycomb's society, rejects the conventions of the South in the 1930s and lives with the blacks, whom he finds less hypocritical. But, to satisfy the hypocrisy of a social system within which he must live, he feigns alcoholism, thus giving the prestigious members of his society who cannot totally reject him because he is from from an "upstanding" family a reason to excuse his otherwise unforgivable behavior. 

Through the characterization of Mayella Ewell and Mr. Dolphus Raymond, two members of different social levels who act as foils to each other, Harper Lee, then, points to the hypocrisy and evil of racial prejudice that sacrifices Tom Robinson to the status quo.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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