To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Chapter 17

As the trial begins, Sheriff Tate gives his testimony, stating that Bob Ewell entered his office claiming his daughter Mayella had been raped and beaten by a black man. They went to the Ewells,' and she identified her attacker as Tom Robinson. When Atticus cross-examined him, he established that they didn't call a doctor and that the right side of Mayella's face received most of the beating, meaning the assailant was left handed. When Bob Ewell steps onto the stand, Scout reveals a backstory about the Ewells that every town has a family like them which is poor and are angry about it. Bob Ewell's story matches the sheriff's, but Atticus sees loopholes in it, like the fact that they never called a doctor; and shows him to be left handed – a possibility that he could have been Mayella's rapist. Jem is excited about the proceedings, but Scout isn't.


Lee gives the details of the trial as a tense moment for the reader, as well as for Jem and Scout. Bob Ewell’s story has gaping holes, but even though Atticus attempts to clearly lay bare all the gaps, the case boils down to race; the whites and the blacks. Bob Ewell is incapable of relating to anyone in a positive way. He is so fascinating and easy to hate because he represents the exact opposite of Atticus and his children. The saddest thing is that he infects the people around him with bitterness, especially his children such as Burris Ewell, who is undoubtedly poised to be the ‘Bob Ewell’ of the next generation judging by the way he behaved towards Miss  Caroline in chapter 3.

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