The Ewell Residence in To Kill a Mockingbird
Length: 1068 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)
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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
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.
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
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
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.