Burris Ewell

Who is Burris Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbirg, Burris Ewell is the son Bob Ewell and, like the rest of his family, is somewhat lacking in the finer points of personal hygiene.  He is first introduced to the reader in Chapter Three, when his and Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline, suggests he go home and clean up.  Scout, the novel's narrator, describes Burris, and the scene in the classroom, as follows:

The boy stood up. He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick. He peered at Miss Caroline from a fist-sized clean space on his face. No one had noticed him, probably, because Miss Caroline and I had entertained the class most of the morning.
“And Burris,” said Miss Caroline, “please bathe yourself before you come back
The boy laughed rudely. “You ain’t sendin‘ me home, missus. I was on the verge of leavin’—I done done my time for this year.”
Miss Caroline looked puzzled. “What do you mean by that?”
The boy did not answer. He gave a short contemptuous snort.

Burris is not only representative of his family in terms of hygiene, but also in terms of disregard for authority and primitiveness in his world outlook.  His father, of course, is the town's leading racist and slob.

price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Burris Ewell is one on the seven children Bob Ewell has.  He is the same age and in the same grade as Scout.  On the first day of school, Miss Caroline notices lice in Burris’ hair.  She is appalled by the “cootie” crawling out of his hair.  The Ewell children are known for only coming to school on the first day of school and never coming back.  The Ewells are the true “white trash” of the community, and Burris shows the effects of growing up in poverty and the conditions in which he lives.  He is filthy and unkempt.  When Miss Caroline asks Burris to leave, he is disrespectful to her and causes Miss Caroline to cry on the first day of school.  The only other mention of the Ewell children (except Mayella) is when Scout says she remembers just seeing dirty faces pressed against the window whenever she passed their home.

They are a sad family, and including Burris Ewell early in the novel gives us a good idea of the dynamics of the Ewell family.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Burris Ewell makes his appearance in Chapter 3, when a louse crawls off his head and horrifies Miss Caroline, his teacher. Scout observes that "he was the filthiest human being I had ever seen (26-27).  He is clearly illiterate because he cannot spell his own name.  Miss Caroline tries to send him home to bathe and get rid of his lice, but he does not plan on coming back to school anyhow.  The children explain that the Ewells only show up for the first day of school because the truant officer forces them to.  But that is the only time they appear.  When Miss Caroline decides to try to make Burris stay, he leaves, yellling insults at her on his way out, finally making her cry.  The other children console her. 

zumba96 | Student

Burris is the son of Bob Ewell and beside lacking hygiene, he lacks his manners. He insults the teacher of the very first day and is the definition of "white trash". He thinks he is better then everyone else and only goes to school one day because it is mandatory. Just like his father he represents the terrible racism found within town. 

mjb1999 | Student

Burris Ewell is nasty in hygenie and in his personality. All Miss caroline was doing was trying to be safe in an infecting kind of way.

tennimis98 | Student

Son of Bob Ewell. He is very poor and is one of the filthiest humans in Maycomb. Only comes to school on th first day.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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