Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
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How did Heck Tate alter the evidence about Boo Radley killing Bob to fit his lie?

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The other teacher is correct. In chapter 30, Heck Tate and Atticus are discussing what happened and Atticus thinks at first that Jem was the one that killed Bob Ewell. Heck insists on calling the death an accident, but Atticus, ever the fair and impartial lawyer, doesn’t want Jem protected from...

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The other teacher is correct. In chapter 30, Heck Tate and Atticus are discussing what happened and Atticus thinks at first that Jem was the one that killed Bob Ewell. Heck insists on calling the death an accident, but Atticus, ever the fair and impartial lawyer, doesn’t want Jem protected from the law. Heck insists that Ewell fell on his knife and that Jem didn’t kill him. Heck knows that Boo is the one who stabbed Ewell but he wants to keep the facts secret. He says that Boo, with his "quiet ways", doesn’t need the entire town bothering him any more than they have in the past. He reminds Atticus that Tom Robinson died for no reason and now the man responsible for that miscarriage of justice (Bob Ewell) is dead. “Let the dead bury the dead,” he tells Atticus.

Some of my students have taken issue with this ending - the fact that Atticus agreed to keep things quiet. They said it was out of character - that a man who was even willing to allow his own son to be exposed to the workings of the law (when Atticus thought it was Jem who killed Ewell) would not have so easily agreed to hush up Boo's deed. What do you think about this? I think Atticus did act according to character because sometimes we must listen to a higher power, and surely that power would not have wanted Boo to suffer any further abuse.

 

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I think Lee leads us to believe that Mr. Ewell was killed by Boo Radley. The order of sounds that were heard by Scout confirm this. First she feels herself attacked, then Jem in a fight, a crack (the breaking of Jem's arm), and then a scuffle, and finally some short quick steps away. We assume the scuffle was a fight between Bob and Boo, and the short quick steps away were Boo taking Jem to the house.

The evidence shows that he had a knife stuck up under his ribs. We know this when Scout is in the dark and feels across his body trying to figure out who that is. Scout finds something she can't identify (a knife), and later Tate reports he found Bob under the tree with a knife stuck under his ribs.

Tate says Bob must have fell on his knife. (This is interesting because it would be odd for a person to purposely kill themselves this way, so falling was the only way this would have worked)

It was too dark to see anything, and Ewell easily could have tripped on a root under this tree.

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