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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What three things does Bob Ewell do in chapter 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird that alarm Aunt Alexandra?

In chapter 27, Bob Ewell blames Atticus for "getting his job" when he is fired from the WPA for laziness. Bob then attempts to break into Judge Taylor's home on a Sunday night but never makes it past the back door. Finally, Bob does intimidates Helen Robinson on her walk to work by "crooning foul words" and following her at a distance the entire way.

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Even though Bob Ewell won the trial, he realizes the entire town does not believe him and finds himself "as forgotten as Tom Robinson." Bob Ewell primarily blames Atticus Finch for ruining his reputation and seeks revenge on anyone involved in the trial who may have supported Atticus's case or made him look like a fool. At the beginning of chapter 27, Scout recalls several disturbing incidents indirectly involving her family following the trial. The first incident concerns Bob Ewell losing his job at the WPA for laziness. When Bob is fired, he blames Atticus for "getting his job."

The second incident takes place at Judge Taylor's home. On a Sunday evening, Bob Ewell attempts to break into Judge Taylor's home, but he never makes it past the back door. When Judge Taylor hears scratching at the door, he checks it out but only manages to catch a glimpse of Bob's shadow leaving the house. Bob Ewell holds a grudge against Judge Taylor because he believes he supported Atticus during the trial and contributed to his disgrace.

The third incident occurs when Bob Ewell begins to harass Helen Robinson on her walk to work. Initially, Bob Ewell frightened Helen and "chunked at her" when she walked past his home, which is why she began traveling nearly a mile out of her way to avoid him. After her employer Link Deas threatens Bob Ewell, Helen takes her normal route to work. Unfortunately, Bob Ewell follows her at a distance, "crooning foul words" the entire way, and Link Deas is forced to threaten him again. Aunt Alexandra finds all three incidences quite disturbing and tells her brother,

That man [Bob Ewell] seems to have a permanent running grudge against everybody connected with that case. I know how that kind are about paying off grudges, but I don’t understand why he should harbor one.

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Bob Ewell is enraged against those who didn't take his word as a white man over Tom Robinson's. Winning the trial and Tom's death in prison are not enough to satisfy Bob Ewell's bruised pride. As a result, Bob Ewell blames Judge Taylor and Atticus Finch for his troubles. He also antagonizes Tom's widow in the process. A foreshadowing of Bob Ewell's disgruntled attitude appears in chapter 23 when he spits in Atticus's face and threatens to kill him. After that happens, Atticus tells his family not to worry if Bob Ewell will ever follow through with his threats. Aunt Alexandra says,

I wouldn't be so sure of that, Atticus... His kind'd do anything to pay off a grudge. You know how those people are (218).

By chapter 27, Bob Ewell is still fixated on the trial. Scout says Ewell "found himself as forgotten as Tom Robinson" (248). So Ewell tells Ruth Jones at the welfare office that Atticus is to blame for "getting" his job. This incident concerned Ruth enough for her to tell Atticus about it, but he isn't very concerned. That is the first "thing" Ewell did that seemed out of the ordinary. It is also concerning because the spitting incident apparently wasn't enough for Ewell to forget about Atticus.

Next, Bob Ewell creeps into Judge Taylor's yard and slices the back door's screen on a Sunday night when the judge was home alone. Judge Taylor caught a shadow running out of his backyard, so he continued the rest of the night sitting with his shotgun as a precaution. To make matters worse for Tom's widow, Ewell's children "chunked" at her when she walked by their house to go to work for Link Deas. Ewell would then yell obscenities at her until Deas told him to stop. Ewell doesn't stop until Deas threatens to press charges on Ewell for continuing to follow Helen to work. All of these actions point to the fact that Ewell was not one to let go of a grudge, just as Aunt Alexandra said. Alexandra voices her opinion again in chapter 27 with the following:

I don't like it, Atticus. I don't like it at all... That man seems to have a permanent running grudge against everybody connected with that case. I know how that kind are about paying off grudges, but I don't understand why he should harbor one—he had his way in court, didn't he? (250).

Still, Atticus isn't very concerned. He can't do anything about Ewell anyway until Ewell actually commits a crime. Ewell dies during his next attempt to seek revenge, but it proves Aunt Alexandra was right to be concerned about his behavior.

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Bob Ewell is fairly active following the trial, and in all the wrong ways.

First, he gets a job at the WPA and then gets fired for laziness. He then blames Atticus for having something to do with him losing his job.

Next, someone is prowling around outside of Judge Taylor's house. Although it is not directly stated, we get the impression it was Bob Ewell.

Finally, Link Deas hires Tom Robinson's widow, Helen. She has to walk past the Ewell house on her way to work, though, and when she does the entire Ewell family "chunks" at her, meaning they hurl insults at her as she passes. She starts taking another route to work, but it takes her a mile out of her way. When Deas hears about this he threatens Bob Ewell and his family and tells them to stop yelling at her. Then Helen starts walking past the Ewell house again only to have Bob follow her all the way to work singing nasty names about her. 

All of this leads Aunt Alexandra to remark,

"I don't like it, Atticus. I don't like it at all. That man seems to have a permanent running grudge against everybody connected with that case. I know how that kind are about paying off grudges, but I don't understand why he should harbor one - he had his way in court, didn't he?" (Ch. 27).

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In To Kill A Mockingbird, it seems that the residents of Maycomb County do not learn from their own mistakes. Tom Robinson, an innocent man, has been tried and convicted and is dead. Scout, the narrator, recalling the events, recognizes the hypocrisy of the locals and asks Jem in chapter 26 how it is possible to "hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home?" She has learned from her father, Atticus, not to judge others and yet she sees people being unnecessarily unkind. Atticus hopes she understands from everything that he has taught her that people have "blind spots" which prevent them from being rational and fair. She knows that she should not judge them however because as early as chapter 3, Atticus told her that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." It seems the Maycomb residents do not share this opinion or Atticus's integrity. 

Bob Ewell is Mayella's father and is a poor role model. He does not care for his children and it is his apparent beating of Mayella that started the tragic turn of events and led to Tom's death after Tom had felt sorry for Mayella and been blamed for her assault and accused of rape. In chapter 27 Bob Ewell has been given a job by the WPA (the Works Progress Administration), an organization set up to ease unemployment and to help the otherwise jobless perform functional tasks and works. His enthusiasm is short-lived and it is significant and ironic that he loses a job created to help him and people like him. He lasts less than a week and blames everyone else and especially Atticus for his misfortune. 

Another significant occurrence is how Judge Taylor deals with a prowler at his home one Sunday night. Presumably the would-be burglar thought no one was home. The judge takes it in his stride but sits with his shotgun across his lap. He does not get a good look at the "visitor" but seems unperturbed. He is certainly prepared to act against the intruder who is assumed to be Bob Ewell.  

Scout also tells the reader how Maycomb residents soon forgot about Tom Robinson and Bob Ewell and even Boo Radley. Tom's employer (Link Deas) however gives Tom's widow a job even though he doesn't really need her assistance. Bob Ewell makes Helen Robinson feel afraid as he follows her and berates her and it is necessary for Mr. Link Deas to intervene on her behalf.

It is Bob Ewell's behavior which alarms Aunt Alexandra. He loses his job and blames Atticus. He sneaks around at the Judge's home in the dark and he threatens Tom's widow Helen. It seems that even though his daughter won in court, he holds a grudge against the people who tried to do the right thing. He is apparently bitter because, as Atticus points out to Aunt Alexandra, "He thought he’d be a hero, but all he got for his pain was… was, okay, we’ll convict this Negro but get back to your dump."  

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Whether or not it is failure to live up to his name--Robert E. Lee Ewell, a name of a general of the Confederency, such a name that Atticus contends makes a man a steady and slow drinker--Bob Ewell is a character who behaves reprehensibly. In Chapter 27, the Finches learn of three separate incidents:

  1. Bob Ewell is fired from a WPA job, an action that is unheard of, but he was so lazy that he was let go. When Ewell went back to the welfare office, he muttered that "the bastards who thought they ran this town wouldn't permit an hones man to make a living," openly accusing Atticus of causing him to be fired.
  2. One Sunday night while Mrs. Taylor was at church, Judge Taylor sat reading in his house, when he heard a scratching noise in the rear of his house. When he walked to the back porch to let his dog out, the screen door was swinging and his eye caught a shadow on the corner of the house. After that, the judge sat with a loaded shotgun across his lap, suspecting the visit was from Ewell.
  3. After Tom's death, Mr. Link Deas hired Helen Robinson as his cook. Since she lives on the same road as the Ewell's, she walks about a mile out of her way to avoid them. When Mr. Link learns of this, he walks Helen past the Ewells and calls to them, warning Bob. But, when Helen walks past the Ewells, Bob comes out and follows behind her, uttering foul words. So, Mr. Link again confront the reprobate, threatening to press assault charges. This was the end of Helen's trouble from Ewell, fortunately.

After learning of these incidents, Alexandra tells Atticus that she is disturbed by them.

"That man seems to have a permanent grudge against everybody connected with that case. I know how that kind are about paying off grudges, but I don't understand why he should harbor one--he had his way in court, didn't he?"

In his liberal way, Atticus replies that Ewell is disappointed that people did not believe "his and Mayella's yarns....He'll settle down when the weather changes." Unfortunately, the more suspicious Alexandra is right to be alarmed about Ewell, as these incidents presage things to come.

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, there are several things that concern Aunt Alexandra about Bob Ewell's behavior. his exposure on the witness stand, Ewell makes threats to Atticus & others involved in the trial...

The first concern may arise when Ewell gets fired from his WPA job—employment provided to people during the Great Depression. He starts receiving welfare checks again and according to Ruth Jones, the welfare lady...

Mr. Ewell openly accused Atticus of getting his job. She was upset enough to walk down to Atticus' office and tell him about it.

Judge Taylor's house is broken into, while the Judge is home alone, reading.

One Sunday night, lost in fruity metaphors and florid diction, Judge Taylor's attention was wrenched from the page by an irritating scratching noise.

Thinking it was his dog, he looks up to find himself alone, and investigating, he finds his back door open. When his wife returns, the Judge is sitting in his chair with a shot gun in his lap, reading.

Ewell becomes visibly threatening when he begins to follow Helen Robinson on her way to work as a cook at Link Deas' home. She has gone out of her way each day to avoid the Ewell place because the Ewell children have been throwing objects at her as she passes by. Deas goes by the Ewell house and hollers in a threat to Bob to leave Helen alone, or Deas will have him arrested. The next day, Helen walks past the Ewell place and no one throws anything at her. However Bob Ewell follows her:

All the way...Helen said, she heard a soft voice behind her, crooning foul words.

Helen calls Deas at his store and Deas come back to speak to Ewell. Threatening him again, Deas threatens Ewell, saying that if he bothers Helen again, Deas will "get you in on the Ladies' Law" so he better leave Helen alone.

It is also upsetting when Ewell spits in Atticus' face. Atticus takes it well, simply wishing that Ewell wouldn't chew tobacco—which makes it an especially nasty experience.

And after the children are attacked, Aunt Alexandra feels partly responsible as she had a prophetic feeling about the children's safety, and feels that perhaps she could have done something to prevent it.


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Bob Ewell commits many alarming acts during the story, but I assume you are concerned with the ones committed in Chapter 27. First, Bob "acquired and lost a job in a matter of days." He was fired from his WPA (Works Progress Administration) government job for laziness--"unique in the annals of the 1930s." Bob blamed Atticus for "getting his job," and Aunt Alexandra was worried about Bob getting even, too.

Next, Bob apparently tried to break into Judge Taylor's house. Taylor was alone on a Sunday night, peacefully reading while his wife was at church. When he heard an "irritating scratching noise" that turned out not to be his dog, Judge Taylor discovered his screen door open. He noticed a shadow at the corner of his house, but he never saw the face of his "visitor."

Finally, Bob began stalking Helen Robinson, Tom's widow. He "chunked at her" while "crooning foul words" to her as she walked past the Ewell house. When Link Deas, Helen's boss, found out, he threatened to have Bob arrested, and the stalking stopped.

"I don't like it, Atticus. I don't like it at all," was Aunt Alexandra's assessment of these events.
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In Chapter 27, Aunt Alexandra is frustrated that Bob Ewell has once again caused trouble. She believes that Bob seems to have a "permanent running grudge against everybody connected" with the Tom Robinson case.

There are three things that Bob does which alarm her. The first occurs when Bob gets fired from his job at the WPA (Works Progress Administration) due to his laziness. After he loses his job, Bob goes back to collecting welfare checks. As an example of his lack of grace and gratitude, Bob openly complains that he is an "honest man" who has been denied an opportunity to make a living.

Not long after, Bob Ewell takes to stalking Judge Taylor. One Sunday evening, as the judge is reading, a scratching noise is heard from the rear of his house. When Judge Taylor lets his dog out, he discovers that the screen door is open. However, out of the corner of his eye, he manages to catch a glimpse of an intruder skulking away. Later,  Mrs. Taylor comes home from church to find her husband with a shotgun across his lap. The general consensus is that Bob Ewell is the one who's been stalking Judge Taylor.

Not content with the all the trouble he has already caused, Bob Ewell then harasses Tom Robinson's wife, Helen. After the trial, Helen is given a job by Mr. Link Deas. To get to work, however, Helen must go a mile out of her way to avoid the Ewell home. Helen is harassed at least twice by Bob Ewell; it is only when Mr. Link Deas threatens to bring Bob up on charges that he stops harassing Helen.

For his part, Atticus explains that Bob is just trying to salvage his wounded pride. During the trial, Bob imagined that he would be the star of the proceedings. However, his bombastic and rude behavior alienated the jury and courtroom observers, and it left him looking foolish and small-minded. More than anything, Bob knows that very few people really believed his and Mayella's story about Tom Robinson. Atticus tries to reassure Aunt Alexandra that Bob has "had his fling with about everybody now, so he ought to be satisfied. He’ll settle down when the weather changes." However, as we later learn, Bob Ewell's actions are only a precursor to his brutal attack on Scout and Jem after the Halloween pageant.


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From the very beginning of the book, we see that Bob Ewell is not a very nice man. After Tom Robinson was killed, Bob is seen to be acting very strangely by Aunt Alexandra. Aunt Alexandra is very protective of her family.

In chapter 27 we see that three things happen to make Aunt Alexandra and the rest of the town worried about Bob Ewell. The first thing that happens is that Bob loses his job. He was never one to hold a job, but when he loses his job it makes people start to wonder about him. When Judge Taylor sees someone sneaking away from his house, Bob is the first one people think of. He has broken into the Judge's house, and the third thing is that he starts to follow Tom's widow, Helen around town.

"Mr. Ewell kept the same distance behind her until she reached Mr. Link Deas's house. All the way to the house, Helen said she heard a soft voice behind her, crooning foul words. Thoroughly frightened, she telephoned Mr. Link at his store, which was not too far from his house. As Mr. Link came out of his store he saw Mr. Ewell leaning on the fence. Mr. Ewell said "Don't you look at me, Link Deas, like I was dirt. I a'int jumped your."

"You don't have to touch her. All you have to do is make her afraid, an if assault a'int enough to keep you locked up awhile, I'll get you in on the Ladies Law, so you get outa my sight! If you think I mean it, just bother that girl again."

Mr. Ewell was nothing but a coward. All he was able to do was scare people who were weaker than he was. He was getting ready to meet the a person who was not afraid of him at all. 

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In Chapter 27, Scout describes three of Bob Ewell's exploits during the previous summer. Aunt Alexandra was quite worried about the repercussions. "I don't like it, Atticus. I don't like it at all," was her assessment of the events.

  • Bob got fired from his job with the WPA, "for laziness," according to Scout. Bob blamed Atticus for "getting his job."
  • Judge Taylor caught someone fleeing from his property one night, and Bob Ewell was the prime suspect.
  • Bob began stalking and harrassing Tom Robinson's widow, Helen. He was warned by Link Deas, who threatened to get Sheriff Tate involved, and Bob soon left her alone.
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Bob Ewell openly threatens Atticus' family after Tom Robinson is acquitted.  Bob Ewell spat upon Atticus and threatened revenge.

Bob's comments about Tom Robinson's death were very alarming: "one down and about 2 more to go" is a veiled threat toward Atticus and others who might have taken Tom's side in the case.

He threatens Tom Robinson's widow to the point that her employer has to "pay him a visit" and threaten to involve the law.

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After the trial, Bob Ewell threatened Atticus, who made it clear he would not fight even if Ewell attacked.  Ewell was also terminated from his job, someone attempted to enter Judge Taylor's house (thought to be Ewell) and the Ewells harrassed Tom Robinson's widow as she walked by their home.   Alexandra was especially alarmed by Ewell's threats, his firing, and the harassment of Mrs. Robinson, as they are indication that Ewell has not forgotten about the trial, nor has he forgotten Atticus's role in it, and in fact is still enraged.

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