When Bob Ewell gets on the witness stand, to what does he testify in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 17, Bob Ewell takes the witness stand and testifies about what he saw on the night of November 21. Mr. Ewell begins by mentioning that he was returning to his home from the woods with a bundle of kindling when he heard Mayella scream from inside the house. Upon hearing his daughter's screams, Mr. Ewell says he dropped his bundle and ran as fast as he could toward his home. However, Mr. Ewell had difficulty getting over the fence in the yard, but he could see Tom Robinson "ruttin" on Mayella. Bob Ewell then makes it clear that he saw Tom Robinson having sexual intercourse with his daughter and tells Mr. Gilmer that the room was all "slung about." Bob then says he ran around the house to grab Tom Robinson, but he could not catch Tom because he ran out the front door. Instead of running to catch Tom, Bob says he looked at Mayella before running to get Sheriff Tate.

When Atticus questions Mr. Ewell, Bob tells Atticus that he felt like it was not necessary to call a doctor and agrees with Heck Tate's testimony affirming that Mayella was beaten on the right side of her face. Atticus then has Bob Ewell sign his signature, which reveals that Bob is left-handed. This information is significant given the fact that Mayella's bruises were inflicted by someone who led predominately with their left hand. Since Tom Robinson's left hand is crippled, this evidence suggests that Bob may have abused his daughter.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Simply put, Bob claims that Tom Robinson has raped and beaten his daughter, Mayella. According to Bob's testimony, he returned to his house, looked in the window, and

"--I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella!"

Much to his pleasure, Bob's statement sends the courtroom spectators into an uproar. Bob claims that Tom not only raped Mayella but also beats and chokes her, causing the bruises on her neck and face. Bob also "holds with Tate"--he agrees with all of Sheriff Tate's testimony, that no doctor was called and that the right side of Mayella's face was bruised. Atticus also requests that Bob write his name, and he did so with his left hand.

Scout and Jem (and most readers) choose to believe Tom's testimony: that Mayella hugged and kissed him while he was trying to get a box off the top of her chiffarobe, and Bob appeared as Tom was trying to run away. Since Atticus proved that Mayella's bruises could only have been inflicted by a left-handed man (Bob writes with his left hand); and since Tom's left arm is crippled, it can be assumed that the only other person present--Bob Ewell--choked and beat his own daughter. Bob must have been angry to see Mayella kissing a black man and, according to Tom, Bob told her,

"... you goddam whore, I'll kill ya."

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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