To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Chapter 18

Atticus’s cross-examination of Mayella clearly indicates that Tom Robinson couldn’t have committed the crime he is accused of. Mayella is defiant and even stops answering Atticus’s questions towards the end because the evidence is in plain sight for everyone to see; but it still doesn’t guarantee Tom Robinson’s freedom. Atticus knows that the case can’t be won, but the children show some kind of childlike hope that based on the evidence, Tom cannot be convicted. However, there is a feeling that Tom is going to be found guilty.


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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