What do you think of Atticus's reaction to Bob Ewell's challenge in Chapter 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird? Should he have ignored Bob, retaliated, or done something else?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the beginning of Chapter 23, Atticus is approached and threatened at the post office by Bob Ewell. Bob Ewell even spits into Atticus's face and tries to fight him. However, Atticus remains calm and refuses to retailate. Atticus simply walks away and does not believe that Bob Ewell will follow through with any of his threats. Despite the feelings of Alexandra and his children, Atticus believes that Bob Ewell has taken his anger out on him that day at the post office. Atticus does not think Bob Ewell is capable of harming his family and dismisses his threats. In my opinion, Atticus should have at least notified Sheriff Tate of the incident. Atticus is correct in viewing Bob Ewell as a coward, but he is rather naive to believe that Bob will not hold a grudge. I think that it would have been out of Atticus's character to have fought Bob Ewell, but he should have taken Bob's threats more serious and notified the authorities.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Atticus is a true Southern gentleman who attempts to teach his children by the example he personally sets. He has already lectured Scout about the futility of using her fists to settle arguments, so it would have gone against his character and teachings had Atticus decided to accept Bob Ewell's challenge to fight. Atticus was not about to lower himself to Bob's level as "the disgrace of Maycomb," especially in a public place and in front of women. Atticus knew that Bob was probably drunk and that it was the liquor that gave him the courage to face Atticus in the first place. It was an easy decision for Atticus to ignore Bob's threat, and he was able to maintain his dry sense of humor even under such circumstances, responding to Bob's question of whether he was "Too proud to fight" with the answer of

"No, too old..."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial