Why does Atticus ask Bob Ewell to write out his name? What does the jury see when he does this?

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While Bob Ewell is on the witness stand, Atticus asks him to write his name on a piece of paper. The reasoning behind Atticus' request is to show the jury that Bob Ewell is left-handed. The fact that Bob is left-handed is significant because it suggests that he may be...

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While Bob Ewell is on the witness stand, Atticus asks him to write his name on a piece of paper. The reasoning behind Atticus' request is to show the jury that Bob Ewell is left-handed. The fact that Bob is left-handed is significant because it suggests that he may be responsible for the injuries inflicted upon Mayella's face. A man leading predominately with his left hand would more than likely inflict injuries to the right side of a person's face, which is exactly where Mayella's bruises were located. Also, Tom Robinson had his left hand permanently damaged in a cotton gin accident, rendering his left arm completely useless. Therefore, Tom Robinson would probably not have been able to inflict damage to the right side of Mayella's face. By proving that Bob Ewell is left-handed, Atticus implies that Bob was Mayella's attacker.

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Atticus needs to prove that Bob Ewell is left-handed because Mayella had been hit on her right side. When he writes his name, the jury sees that he is left-handed and was therefore probably the one to hit Mayella and not Tom Robinson.

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He wants to show that Ewell is left-handed.  Tom's left arm was injured, and he cannot use his left hand. Mayella's right eye was blackened, as Scout observes, indicating that a left-handed man probably beat her up, which makes it likely that Ewell, not Tom, is the guilty one.

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Atticus has Bob Ewell write his name to prove he is left handed and the one who hit Mayella. 

Atticus’s defense is based on the premise that Tom Robinson could not physically have attacked Mayella, and that there is no evidence that she was raped.  There is evidence that she was attacked, but she was hit on the right side of her face.  Atticus uses the evidence of her facial injuries to create reasonable doubt about who her attacker was.

Bob Ewell doesn't understand why he is being asked to write his name. 

“You’re left-handed, Mr. Ewell,” said Judge Taylor. Mr. Ewell turned angrily to the judge and said he didn’t see what his being left-handed had to do with it, that he was a Christ-fearing man and Atticus Finch was taking advantage of him. (Ch. 17)

Atticus demonstrates that Tom Robinson’s left arm is useless.  If he can’t use his left arm, he can’t be the one who hit Mayella and probably isn’t the one who attacked her.

His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the balcony I could see that it was no use to him. (Ch. 18)

Atticus goes through a lot of trouble to show that Mayella was attacked by someone who was left-handed, and that Tom Robinson is not left-handed and does not have use of his left hand.  Yes, he does use his right hand well.  However, he is not the one who beat her up because she was beat up by a left-handed person.

Was Mayella raped?  Atticus does not directly prove that she was not.  He seems to prove that no one got a doctor for her, as you would think they would if they thought she had been raped.  He also seems to prove that Bob Ewell has had an inappropriate relationship with his daughter.  If she was raped, it was most likely Bob Ewell that did it.  Either way, Atticus creates reasonable doubt.  The jury can’t believe for sure that it was Tom Robinson.  Of course, it makes no difference.  He is black and she is white, so they convict.

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Atticus wanted Bob Ewell to write his name to show if Bob was left or right handed.  It was important because Mayella Ewell had a black eye and bruises on the right side of her face.  This would indicate that she was hit by a left-handed person.  If Mayella and Bob were facing each other, a right-handed man could not have hit her on the right side of her face.  This fact was significant because Tom Robinson’s left arm was useless and deformed because of an accident he had earlier in his life.  It proved that Tom Robinson could not have hit her like Mayella and Bob claimed.  It was a great defense for Tom; unfortunately, the jury had already made up its mind about Tom’s guilt. 

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Atticus asks Bob Ewell to write out his name because it will prove to the court that Tom is innocent of the crime.  The crime was shown to have been committed by a person who was left handed. Bob Ewell wrote his name with his left hand.  While no charges were brought against Bob Ewell, he was humiliated in front of the town and in front of the court.

Ewell is publicly humiliated and shamed in front of the court because Atticus Finch has outsmarted him and has had him prove a black man's innocence with his own hand.

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Atticus Finch makes Bob Ewell sign his name to prove in court that Ewell is left-handed. As Tom's own left hand has been useless ever since a farm accident a few years earlier, this proves that Mayella's aggressor is someone left-handed (such as her own father). For the bruises inflicted on her have been done by someone who had use of both his hands and who was in proximity at the time of the incident.

Atticus catches Ewell off guard, who does not see into what the lawyer is driving at until it is too late.

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To show that he is left handed. This is important since it will prove that he was he, not Tom Robinson, was able to hit Mayella on the right side of her face.

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