University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Bob Ewell Essay
Bob Ewell is a character in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Bob Ewell is the head of the Ewell family, a poor family who lives in the town dump. Bob Ewell has many children, but his wife is deceased. Bob Ewell’s racist attitude, fecklessness and vengefulness make him one of the most hated and wicked characters in the book. Bob Ewell is thought of as the most despicable man in all of Maycomb, except for its black residents, who the racists of the town think are worse than anyone else. Bob Ewell is one of these racists, and throughout the novel he shows that he thinks himself better than any black man. He shows his racist attitude many times at his trial. For example Bob Ewell does not refer to Tom Robinson by his name, instead he states “I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!”.
In addition to not calling him by name; he also uses language associated with animals, “ruttin” as well as later saying “I’ve asked this county for fifteen years to clean out that nest down yon- der, they’re dangerous to live around ‘sides devaluin’ my property-“. In the previous quote Bob Ewell also shows he believes in the stereotype that all black men are criminals, and states his belief that they are devaluing his property more than the nearby dump. Finally, he tells Atticus “ I’m real sorry they picked you to defend that nigger that raped my Mayella. I don’t know why I didn’t kill him myself instead of goin’ to the sheriff. That would have saved you and the sheriff and the taxpayers lots of trouble.”. He shows his racism here in that he believes that the law would be on his side against a black man no matter what happend, even if he had killed Tom.
While it is clear that Bob Ewell was born into a poor and troubled family, he shows no ambition to improve his state of being. He is so lazy that he is known for being the only man to be fired from the WPA for laziness. Moreover, Ewell does not give his children an education, nor does he have one himself. He squanders all his government money buying alcohol, instead of using it to support his children. His fecklessness isn’t just laziness; he doesn’t like things being his problem. He blames beating his daughter on Tom Robinson, and he blames Atticus for taking advantage of him. Not only does he not like taking blame, but he also never confronts his problems head on. He would rather harass poor a woman than confront Atticus.
In addition to being racist and feckless, Bob Ewell is a very vengeful person. There are many examples of him taking needless revenge on various other people. The first is Tom Robinson, If Ewell had come home to see his daughter seducing a black man, he could have let Tom go. However Bob Ewell accused Tom of raping her for revenge. Other examples of his vengefulness are his attempts to take revenge on those who took part in his trial.
This starts with his confrontation with Atticus when he curses, spits on and threatens to him. While is his only confrontation his Atticus,. his vengeful nature is further shown by his willingness to harass a poor black woman (Helen Robinson), and to rob an old man (Judge Tailor). His final attempt at revenge is not against Atticus, but against his children. Bob Ewell decides to, instead of confronting Atticus directly, go after his children in an attempt to hurt Atticus emotionally. While Ewell does not succeed, it shows his willingness to do something as terrible and cowardly as to go after innocent children for petty revenge.
If To Kill a Mockingbird had definite villains, Bob Ewell would be the main antagonist. His constant racism, helps to demonstrate and illustrate his other traits, as it allows him to have someone he is “better than” and someone to blame. His fecklessness is demonstrated by the fact that he makes no attempt to improve his life, or the lives of his children but instead forces his family to work hard while he drinks. In the end, it is shown that he is cowardly, vile and drunk enough to go after innocents to get revenge on a man for trying to give a fair trial to a black man.