Who are the Ewells and why do they get special privileges?
In Maycomb, Bob Ewell and his family are considered "white trash," the lowest stratum of white society in the town. Since there is little that motivates Bob Ewell, there is not much that Maycomb authorities can do about his misconduct that would be effective without harming the children at the same time.
Since the Ewell family has no lower stratum of society to which the members can drop among the citizenry of Maycomb, it is impossible to shame them. Also, since they have neither shame nor money, legal measures against them are virtually ineffective. For instance, since there is no parental insistence on an education, Burris and his siblings feel no need to attend school. "I done done my time for this year" (Ch.3), announces the unashamed Burris to Miss Caroline on the first day.
It would not profit the city to pursue the matter of Burris's truancy since the Ewells have no money with which to pay any fines. Placing Bob Ewell in jail would also accomplish little since he does not work, and he would lose nothing by being incarcerated for a while and being fed by the county. Because he hunts and provides some food for the children, the town authorities allow him to break the law and stay out of jail.
That Bob Ewell is incorrigible is exemplified in the fact that he is "fired from the WPA for laziness" (Ch. 27). Since little can be done with such a man as Bob Ewell, he is sometimes tolerated by disgruntled authorities.
According to Atticus, the Ewells have been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations. The father, Bob Ewell, is the most despicable individual in the entire county and is a notorious alcoholic. The Ewells live like animals, and no one in the family has a job. Bob is a widower who spends all of his money from relief checks on alcohol and lets his children run wild. Atticus explains to Scout that the Ewell family has special privileges because common citizens have essentially become blind to some of their activities. Two special privileges given to the Ewells include not requiring the children to attend school, and allowing Bob to hunt and trap out of season. Atticus tells Scout that although it's against the law, people allow Bob to hunt and trap because he spends all his money on green whiskey. He says that Bob's children would not eat if he weren't allowed to hunt and trap. The citizens also do not punish the Ewells for not attending school. Atticus tells Scout that it would be "silly to force people like the Ewells into a new environment" (Lee 40). Simply put, the Ewells do not value education and will remain truant no matter what, which is why they are excused.