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To Kill A Mockingbird 2 Essay, Research Paper

In To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee gives us a very detailed description of

Robert Ewell, his family, and how he lives.

A good example is the passage in which Robert Ewell testifies in the Tom

Robinson Trial. This is a description of the Ewell’s home as well as an

insight into the Ewells themselves. We learn what kind of a father Robert is

and the kind of life into which he has forced his eldest daughter, Mayella.

We also see how the county of Maycomb cruelly discriminates against the black

community even though they are more respectable than people like the Ewells.

Lee uses such detail in the account of the Ewell cabin because the best way to

understand the Ewells is to understand how they live. For example, she

states, “The cabin’s plank walls were supplemented with sheets of corrugated

iron, its general shape suggested it’s original design: square, with four tiny

rooms opening onto a shotgun hall, the cabin rested uneasily upon four

irregular lumps of limestone. Its windows were merely open spaces in the

walls, which in the summer were covered with greasy strips of cheese cloth to

keep out the varmints that feasted on Maycomb’s refuse.” This description

paints a very vivid picture of the cabin and also tells a little bit about the

Ewells themselves. From this we can infer that the Ewells took very little (if

any at all) pride in their home and it’s appearance. Later in the passage Lee

adds, “What passed for a fence was bits of tree limbs, broomsticks and tool

shafts, all tipped with rusty hammer heads, shovels, axes and grubbing hoes,

held on with pieces of barbed wire.” By now it is apparent that the only

household repairs the Ewells make are with things they find at the dump. The

image Lee is trying to form of these people is made very obvious by her use of

details.

The passage also gives quite a bit of insight into Mr.Ewell himself. For

example, Lee states, “The varmints had a lean of it, for the Ewells gave the

dump a thorough gleaning every day^?” This statement informs us that the Ewells

main source of revenue is form the town dump. Quite a pathetic way to keep

ones family fed; but what can one expect for an unemployed alcoholic like

Mr.Ewell? As Lee states earlier in the passage, “No truant officers could keep

their numerous offspring in school; no public health officer could free them

from congenital defects, various worms, and diseases indigenous to filthy

surroundings.”

THIS DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR THESIS>However as terrible as he is as a

father he serves quite a useful purpose as a contrast to Atticus Finch.

Mr.Finch’s loving and attentiveness towards his children his is made very

obvious when compared to Mr.Ewell’s abusiveness and neglect.

“One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, 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, had Miss Maudie

deigned to permit a geranium on her premises.” Mayella Ewell is the eldest of

the Ewell children, and only member of the Ewell family who has any pride and

sense of dignity at all. As a result of that she is forced to be main

provider and caregiver for the younger Ewell children as Lee expresses in this

statement, “Nobody was quite sure how many children were on the place. Some

people said six, others said nine; there were always several dirty-faced ones

at the windows when anyone passed by.” With all those children to take care

Mayella was only able to get a few years worth of education, and had no time

for any friends. After being forced into this kind of life by her father one

might wonder why Mayella would want to lie under oath on the witness stand to

defend his lies. Probably because she was afraid of what he would do to her if

she told the truth, but also because she had been living with the abuse from

him all her life, and couldn’t imagine her life being any different.

In direct contrast to the Ewells was the “Negro settlement some five hundred

yards beyond the Ewells.” As Lee states, “their cabins looked neat and snug

with pale blue smoke rising from the chimneys and doorways glowing amber from

the fries inside. There were delicious smells about: chicken, bacon frying

crisp as twilight air. Jem and I detected squirrel cooking, but it took a

real country man like Atticus to identify possum and rabbit, aromas that

vanished when we rode back past the Ewell residence.” The members of the

black community lived in poverty like the Ewells, but unlike the Ewells they

managed to keep their homes neat and their children fed.

Lee makes this comparison and then goes on the say that the Ewells are still

considered the better people in the eyes of Maycomb because as a demonstration

of the kind of discrimination that is simply accepted by towns like Maycomb.

This passage also brings up many subjects that could be considered universal

truths. For example, Lee states that, “Every town the size of Maycomb had

families like the Ewells. No economic fluctuations changed their

status–people like the Ewells lived as guests of the county in prosperity as

well as in the depths of a depression.” This is true, almost every place has

its leaches, but I would doubt if most would be as hospitable as Maycomb is to

the Ewells. This passage also implies the effects of negative parenting on

children. If Mr.Ewell had been a better father his children would have had a

better chance of being functional members of society. This would be true for

any children living abusive or negligent environments.

Harper Lee’s in-depth description of the Ewell house hold leads to the

conclusion that even though the Mr.Ewell lived in disgusting, self-inflicted

poverty and abused and neglected his children he was still more respected than

any of the black people in Maycomb. This is because communities like Maycomb

just assume that because a culture is a little bit different they are not as

good a the norm of the society.


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