Burris Ewell

Who is Burris Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird?


Burris Ewell is the son of Maycomb's most despicable resident, Bob Ewell. Burris is roughly eight years old and is portrayed as a vulgar, dirty child who continues to fail the first grade because he is truant. Scout describes him as the filthiest person she's ever seen and witnesses him challenge Miss Caroline when she threatens to call the principal. Burris demonstrates his offensive, disrespectful personality by calling Miss Caroline a "snot-nosed slut" before leaving the school.

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Burris Ewell epitomizes everything that's wrong with the most hated family in Maycomb. Lazy, dirty, ignorant, and disrespectful of authority, Burris very much takes after his old man, the odious Bob Ewell, one of the most despised men in town.

Burris turns up to school just once a year to fulfill state education requirements. After that, it's back home to a life of ignorance and squalor. It's all part of a tacit little arrangement between the education authorities and the Ewell clan.

Unfortunately, Scout's new teacher, Miss Caroline doesn't seem to have got the memo. When a louse crawls out of Burris's filthy, unkempt hair, she takes fright and orders Burris to go home and get a bath. But Burris, being a Ewell, is not about to take orders from Miss Caroline—or anyone else, for that matter. He responds by giving her some trash talk before angrily storming out of class, presumably not to return for another year.

When it comes to Burris, it's clear that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. He's just like his old man, and one can certainly imagine him growing up to be every bit as much of a lazy, abusive, racist person as Bob Ewell.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 8, 2021
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In Harper Lee's celebrated novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Burris Ewell is Bob Ewell's son, who is roughly eight years old. Burris is depicted as an extremely offensive, disrespectful child. He is introduced in chapter 3 on Scout's first day of school, and he causes a scene in the classroom when a cootie (louse) crawls out of his dirty hair. The cootie frightens the easily-excited classroom teacher, Miss Caroline, who instructs Burris to go home and bathe. Instead of accepting Miss Caroline's useful advice, Burris argues with her and states that he has no plans of returning to school for the rest of the year. According to one of Scout's classmates, all the Ewell children are truant, and Burris has been attending only the first day of school for three consecutive years, which explains why he continually fails the first grade.

When Miss Caroline attempts to take control of the situation, Burris Ewell displays his disrespectful, vulgar personality by challenging her and calling her a "snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher." Scout's description of Burris as the "filthiest human" she has ever seen and her record of his offensive personality offers the reader a glimpse into the Ewell family, which plays a significant role in the story. As the story progresses, Scout learns that Bob Ewell, Burris's father, has falsely accused Tom Robinson of raping his daughter.

In summary, Burris Ewell is a member of the most despicable family in Maycomb County and is depicted as a vulgar, aggressive child.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 5, 2021
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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.

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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.

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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. 

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