Who saves Jem and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Atticus and Heck Tate disagree over the essential worth of Bob Ewell. Whom do you agree with and why? Briefly describe the meeting between Scout and Boo. How does this compare to how she imagined the meeting would be?
The climax to the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, occurs when Boo Radley finally makes his appearance, killing Bob Ewell when he attacks Jem and Scout on the way home from the Halloween pageant. A confused Atticus at first appears uncertain about who knifed Ewell, but Sheriff Heck Tate clears up the matter for him.
"Mis-ter Finch, hold on," said Mr. Tate. "Jem never stabbed Bob Ewell."
But Sheriff Tate is not about to publicly admit that Boo has killed Ewell.
"Mr. Finch," Mr. Tate said stolidly. "Bob Ewell fell on his knife. He killed himself."
Atticus and Heck both know this is not true, but the sheriff has his reasons.
"God damn it. I'm not thinking of Jem!"
"... Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight--to me, that's a sin. It's a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man it'd be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch.
Sheriff Tate makes it clear that the death of Bob Ewell is a good thing for Maycomb, and he is willing to bend the rules and call it an accidental self-inflicted wound. He does this primarily to keep Boo Radley away from a possible public trial; in doing so, it will also prevent Jem and Scout from having to testify. Although Atticus does not comment about the character of Bob Ewell, he worries that this "cover-up" will serve as a bad example to Jem. Atticus is also concerned that the community may think "hushing this up" is his idea, and his honest nature will not allow this to happen.
Scout's meeting with Boo is not how she expected it to be. Explaining to Sheriff Tate and Atticus what has happened, she tells them that she thought it was her father who had come to the rescue "and had got wore out." But when the sheriff asks who it was, Scout points and identifies him.
"Why, there he is, Mr. Tate, he can tell you his name."
As she looks at the unknown man standing in the shadows, she finally realizes it is none other than Boo. Boo is gentle and kind, and Scout understands that he is responsible for saving her life. But there is at least one characteristic that Jem and Scout had expected.
... They were white hands, sickly white hands that had never seen the sun... His face was as white as his hands... and his gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin...
As for Sheriff Tate's opinion about Bob Ewell--that Boo "has done this town a great service"--I agree completely. Ewell is absolutely "a disgrace to the community" and deserving of his fate.