Who is Burris Ewell? How does he scare Miss Caroline?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Burris Ewell is a member of the Ewell family. He is the son of Bob Ewell and the younger brother of Mayella Ewell. Scout describes Burris as

"the filthiest human [she] had ever seen. His neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick" (To Kill a Mockingbird, chapter 3).

On the first day of school, Burris Ewell announces his intention to leave and go home. He tells Miss Caroline that this is his third time attending only the first day of the first grade.

Miss Caroline spots lice in Burris' hair. She is greatly disturbed. She is afraid that if he does not leave and treat his head lice, the other students in the class may also get it. She tells Burris to wash his hair with lye soap and then treat his scalp with kerosene. Burris is defiant and insults Miss Caroline. He leaves the classroom only after he makes his teacher cry.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, Burris Ewell is a member of the most despicable family in Maycomb. Bob Ewell is Burris's alcoholic father, and his sister is Mayella, the girl who accuses Tom Robinson of assaulting and raping her. Similar to the other members of his family, Burris Ewell is also an ignorant, immoral, dirty individual. In Chapter 3, Burris scares Miss Caroline when a "cootie" falls out of his hair in the middle of class. Miss Caroline is startled and frightened when the tiny bug crawls onto the floor. She even screams "It's alive!" at the top of her lungs once she sees the "cootie." Little Chuck Little is able to calm her down and immediately gets her a glass of water. Miss Caroline then instructs Burris Ewell to go home and bathe. Burris then begins to give Miss Caroline attitude and makes several derogatory comments toward her before he leaves the class. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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