Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What are three reasons why Mayella Ewell does or does not deserve compassion in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Mayella Ewell does deserve some compassion.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Despite her horrible act of falsely accusing Tom Robinson of rape, Mayella Ewell does deserve some compassion.

Three reasons for feeling compassion for Mayella are as follows:

  1. Mayella has lost her mother and must act as housekeeper and parent to her siblings with little or no help. Her father does not work, and when he receives his welfare check, he often drinks it away, leaving her to fend for herself. Often she and her siblings must scour the junk yard for articles from which to make themselves shoes. Then, too, they find rags and such with which to cover the windows in the winter as they have no glass.
  2. Bob Ewell, her father, abuses Mayella both physically and sexually.
  3. Without any social contact, she receives little or no kindness or affection and has few, if any, social skills. When she is on the witness stand, she cries because she does not want Atticus to make fun of her as she believes he has done with her father. After Atticus, who is only polite to her, addresses her as "Ma'am," she complains,
    “Won’t answer a word you say long as you keep on mockin‘ me,” she says. (Ch.18)
    Mayella is very lonely. The only beauty in her life of poverty and deprivation are the potted red geraniums in the dirt yard.

Against the fence [of their yard], in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson....(Ch.17)


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team