Mayella is afraid of her father. She does not tell the truth at
the trial for fear that her father will beat her again. Mayella and
her father live a life of lies at the time of the trial. Their
lives are filled with deceit. Mayella cannot answer any questions
directly. She changes her answers under Atticus' questioning.
When Atticus asks her if her father had ever beaten her, she
'My paw's never touched a hair o'my head in my life,' she
declared firmly. 'He never touched me.'
Mayella knows she is lying. She covers for her father. She
claims that he has never beaten her. She would rather watch an
innocent man be accused for a crime he didn't do than to tell the
truth about her father. She sounds convincing. She protects her
father by lying. She and her father are despicable. There is no
truth in them. They both know the true story, but both lie to
condemn an innocent man. They are worried about their social
standing in the community:
To avoid social disgrace, the Ewells claimed Tom had raped
In reality, the Ewells have no social standing. They are
considered poor, ignorant, and unlearned. They have no reputation
to protect. Their lies are dangerous, and Tom Robinson will suffer
because of their lies.
I think that it is a bit harsh to categorize the Ewells as
"despicable" and to put Mayella and her father in the same
One of the themes of the book, in my opinion, is that we need to
understand what drives people to do things that may seem despicable
to us. In the case of the Ewells, I think that the fact that
(as this post mentions) the Ewells have "no social standing" and
are considered "poor, ignorant, and unlearned" has a great deal to
do with how they act in the Tom Robinson case.
I think that their testimony shows us that they hunger for
acceptance and to be seen as part of the white community in