The Ewell Residence in To Kill a Mockingbird


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The Ewell Residence in To Kill a Mockingbird

 

In To Kill a Mockingbird, 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^Å" This statement informs us

that the Ewells main source of revenue is form the town dump.

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  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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