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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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The three incidents involving Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird and their revelations about his character

Summary:

The three incidents involving Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird reveal his malevolent and vengeful nature. First, he falsely accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter. Second, he harasses Helen Robinson, Tom's widow, showing his deep-seated racism. Finally, he attacks Scout and Jem, demonstrating his cowardice and willingness to harm children to exact revenge.

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What three incidents involving the Ewells occur in Chapter 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird and what do they reveal about Bob Ewell?

In Chapter 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird, the ignominious Bob Ewell takes three actions that are "out of the ordinary." These actions demonstrate Ewell's vindictive feelings toward against Atticus, Judge Taylor, and Mr. Link Deas.

  1. Bob Ewell is hired and fired in a period of only a few days. Scout comments that Ewell's position "lasted only as long as his notoriety." He was hired by the WPA (the Works Progress Administration was a program begun during the Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt). After being fired, Ewell publicly accused Atticus Finch of "getting" his job (i.e., Atticus requested that Bob be fired in order to discredit Ewell.)
  2. One Sunday evening, Bob Ewell apparently went to Judge Taylor's home with intentions of harming him. The judge was alone in his house because his wife attended church on Sunday night. When he heard a scratching sound, the judge believed his dog was doing something. But, as he looked around, he saw that the dog was absent from the room. Realizing that the sound was coming from the rear of his house, the judge rose and walked to this part of his house. As he opened his screen door, Judge Taylor got a glimpse of a shadow. When his wife returned, she found her husband in his usual position, but this time he was reading with a shotgun in his lap. Atticus explained to Alexandra that Ewell held a grudge against Judge Taylor because he made Ewell appear foolish during his time on the witness stand. The judge made certain facial expressions as Ewell fabricated his testimony and displayed his ignorance of certain words. Atticus tells his sister, "John looked at him as if he were a three-legged chicken or a square egg" (Ch.27).
  3. Bob Ewell harassed Helen Robinson. After Tom Robinson's trial, Tom was taken to prison, and his family was left without support. Out of sympathy for Helen Robinson and the children, Link Deas gave her a job as his cook. However, to reach Mr. Deas's house, Helen had to walk a long way because she could not safely come up the public road without having Bob Ewell or one of his children throwing something at her. When Mr. Deas realized that Mrs. Robinson was approaching his house from the wrong direction, he demanded the reason for her actions. He then instructed her to stop by his store when she finished her work. Later, when Helen arrived, Mr. Deas escorted her home the shorter way. On his way back, Mr. Deas halted before the makeshift gate of Ewell's, calling out,

"I know every last one of you's in there....Now hear me, Bob Ewell: if I hear one more peep outa my girl Helen about not bein' able to walk this road, I'll have you in jail before sundown!" (Ch.27)

The next morning Helen went to work, using the public road. Although no one threw things at her, she realized after she had gone a short distance that Bob Ewell was following her, "crooning foul words" under his breath. When Helen reached Mr. Deas's house, she phoned him. The valiant Mr. Deas returned home and threatened to have Ewell held on charges of assault or the "Ladies' Law" if he came near Helen again. After this conversation, there were no more problems.

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What three incidents involving the Ewells occur in Chapter 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird and what do they reveal about Bob Ewell?

Scout lists three things that happened: first, Ewell "acquired and lost a job in a mater of days; second, Judge Taylor suspects someone is poking around his yard in the night, with the implication that it is Ewell, and therefore pulls out a shotgun and puts it in his lap; third, Ewell harrasses Tom's widow, causing her employer to come to her defense.  We learn from these incidents that Ewell seeks revenge from those that humiliated him in the trial.

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What three incidents concerning Bob Ewell occur in To Kill a Mockingbird and what do they reveal about his character?

In Chapter 27 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout describes three "small things out of the ordinary" that happened in Maycomb, all three pertaining to Bob Ewell. Two out of three incidents show just exactly how much Bob Ewell is bent upon revenge due to his extremely antagonistic nature. The remaining incident paints Ewell as the sort of lazy degenerate who is completely incapable of improving his own situation.

The first incident Scout describes for us is that Bob Ewell was hired for a job through President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) but promptly lost the job "in a matter of days." In her narrative, Scout notes the following reflection she made about Ewell when she heard the news about his getting fired:

[Mr. Bob Ewell] probably made himself unique in the annals of the nineteen-thirties: he was the only man I ever heard of who was fired from the WPA for laziness. (Ch. 27)

Scout's comment about his actions underscores just how much of a lazy degenerate Ewell truly is.

The second incident Scout describes concerns Judge Taylor, who has a well-known habit of staying home from church on Sunday night. While home alone as usual, reading, he began hearing "an irritating scratching noise" coming from the back of the house. Judge Taylor went to the back porch to investigate and found the "screen door swinging open." Scout further narrates, "A shadow on the corner of the house caught his eye, and that was all he saw of his visitor." Though we don't know for certain the prowler was Bob Ewell, we can speculate it was Ewell since we know Ewell felt humiliated in Judge Taylor's court under Atticus's cross-examination; therefore, we can speculate Ewell was there to annoy Judge Taylor as a means of revenge, or he was there to carry out a more dastardly deed but lost his nerve and ran off. The fact that Ewell would attempt to intimidate or harm Judge Taylor shows us Ewell has a revengeful, antagonistic nature.

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