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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How is apprehension and suspense conveyed at the end of chapter 25 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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The feeling of apprehension and suspense is created with the reference to Mr. Ewell targeting Atticus.

In this chapter, Tom Robinson has been killed and we see how Maycomb reacts.  His wife collapses, and Mr. Underwood writes a scathing editorial in the paper about how it is a sin to kill cripples regardless of race.  Mr. Ewell is the one that Scout is afraid of.  She knows that he is aware that everyone in town, including the jury, is aware of Tom Robinson’s innocence.  The only reason Atticus did not get a conviction was that it is impossible in that time to convict a black man on the word of a white woman.  So Tom was convicted in a court of law, but the whispers of public opinion were different, and that was enough for Bob Ewell.  He felt betrayed.

Miss Stephanie told Aunt Alexandra in Jem's presence ("Oh foot, he's old enough to listen.") that Mr. Ewell said it made one down and about two more to go.  (Ch. 25)

Jem tells Scout not to worry about Bob Ewell, because he is only “hot gas.”  However, this incident is enough foreshadowing to make the reader wonder.  After all, we know that Bob Ewell is dangerous.  Someone beat up Mayella.  The reader sees the incident for what it is.  Also, Jem warns Scout not to tell Atticus.  If there wasn’t something to really be worried about, he would not say that.  Therefore, Jem actually is scared.  Bob Ewell is something to be concerned about.

As it turns out, Scout’s fears are not unfounded.  First, Bob Ewell spits in Atticus’s face and accuses him of being a traitor.  Then, he attacks his children.  If Boo/Arthur Radley had not been there to protect them, Ewell might have injured or killed the kids.

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By the time Chapter 25 of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird comes to a close, the reader is well-acquainted with the characters, especially with Bob Ewell. Ewell, of course, is the virulently racist and perpetually inebriated man who forces his daughter Mayella to accuse Tom Robinson, an equally poor and physically disabled African American man, of rape. While Tom is convicted following his trial despite considerable evidence pointing to his innocence, as well as Mayella’s questionable honesty on the witness stand, and while Tom is now dead, having been shot trying to escape prison, Ewell remains a threatening presence in the town of Maycomb.

For much of the previous chapter and the current one, Lee’s young narrator, Scout, describes the experience of living with her aunt, Alexandra, who is determined to feminize the young tomboy irrespective of Scout’s wishes. Scout and Jem, meanwhile, go about the business of childhood, playing with insects and enjoying the warm September day. As Chapter 25 comes to an end, however, the story takes a decidedly negative tone. The menacing figure of Bob Ewell reenters the narrative. It is an abrupt shift. Scout describes the aftermath of Tom’s death, including the editorial published in the town newspaper that decried the injustice of Robinson’s conviction. Then, Scout raises concerns about Ewell:

“The name Ewell gave me a queasy feeling. Maycomb had lost no time in getting Mr. Ewell’s views on Tom’s demise and passing them along through that English Channel of gossip, Miss Stephanie Crawford. Miss Stephanie told Aunt Alexandra in Jem’s presence (“Oh foot, he’s old enough to listen.”) that Mr. Ewell said it made one down and about two more to go. Jem told me not to be afraid, Mr. Ewell was more hot gas than anything. Jem also told me that if I breathed a word to Atticus, if in any way I let Atticus know I knew, Jem would personally never speak to me again.”

The sense of foreboding that develops with the above end of Chapter 25 is a prelude to the climactic scene that occurs later in the novel when Jem and Scout are physically attacked by Ewell. The reader does not know how the plot involving Bob Ewell will develop, but the feeling of apprehension has been established.

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At the end of Chapter 25, Scout mentions that the name Ewell gave her a "queasy feeling" and shares the menacing threat from Bob Ewell that Miss Stephanie apparently heard. Jem overheard Miss Stephanie telling Aunt Alexandra that after Tom died, "Mr. Ewell said it made one down and about two more to go" (Lee 147). As was mentioned in the previous post, Harper Lee builds suspense and apprehension by foreshadowing Bob's attack. Scout's pervading sense of fear and danger also creates an ominous atmosphere at the end of the chapter. Bob Ewell's menacing threat suggests that he will attempt to murder at least two characters. However, the reader is unaware that Bob will attempt to murder Jem and Scout. The reader realizes that there are several characters who could be the targets of Bob Ewell's hate but is unsure what two characters he will choose to go after. Unfortunately, Bob Ewell attempts to murder two innocent children. 

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This chapter ends with the menacing remarks of Bob Ewell, "...one down and about two more to go." These remarks by Ewell foreshadow his attack on Jem and Scout. Most people of the town feel that Tom Robinson's death has ended this very difficult time in Maycomb, but Bob Ewell lets us know that it isn't over yet. We feel a sense of dread, knowing that what Bob has in store for Atticus and his family isn't going to be good. 

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In Chapter 25 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout relates the ride that Atticus and Calpurnia took to the Robinsons with Jem and Dill in the back seat of the car. From Dill Scout has learned that Atticus went to the house and when Helen Robinson learns why Atticus has come she "just fell down in the dirt....like a giant with a big foot just came along along and stepped on her." Then, to add to the horrifying moment, the Ewells "hollered at" Atticus and the boys as the drove past.

Certainly, an atmosphere of foreboding is created by the animosity of the perpetrators of evil, the Ewells. And, Bob Ewell's cruel and callous remark, as related by Miss Stephanie, of "one down and about two more to go" is, indeed, troublesome. While Jem has told Scout that Bob Ewell is more "hot gas than anything," Scout becomes apprehensive, but Jem threatens her not to say anything to Atticus.

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