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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In what ways does Atticus say the Ewells are different from the Finches in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In the third chapter of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout recounts for her father the things that happened during her first miserable day of school. She then begs him not to send her any more. When Atticus says it is unlawful for him not to send her to school, Scout brings up Burris Ewell, saying that the "truant lady reckons she's carried out the law when she gets his name on the roll-[sheet]." Atticus then explains to her why society is willing to bend the rules just a bit for people like the Ewells and to explain in what ways the Ewells are different from the Finches.

To begin with, the Ewells have "been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations." Not a single Ewell has ever worked for a living. Instead, they are uneducated alcoholics who live off of relief checks, and they spend most of their checks on alcohol. For this reason, the city even permits Bob Ewell, the family's current patriarch, to "hunt and trap out of season." The city figures they would rather permit Bob Ewell to commit a misdemeanor than allow his children to starve. Atticus further says that the Ewells "live like animals," especially because they refuse to be educated even though the doors to education are open to them at any time.

In contrast to the Ewells, the Finches are very educated and honest white-collar workers. Later, in Chapter 5, Scout even tells Miss Maudie that Atticus has "never drunk a drop in his life," which means he is certainly not an alcoholic; therefore, his children are certainly not in any danger of starving while he spends all of their money on alcohol, unlike the poor Ewell children when Bob Ewell feeds his alcoholism.

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