Lee Essay, Research Paper
In To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee gives us a very detailed description ofRobert Ewell, his family, and how he lives.
A good example is the passage in which Robert Ewell testifies in the TomRobinson Trial. This is a description of the Ewell’s home as well as aninsight into the Ewells themselves. We learn what kind of a father Robert isand 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 blackcommunity 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 tounderstand the Ewells is to understand how they live. For example, shestates, “The cabin’s plank walls were supplemented with sheets of corrugatediron, its general shape suggested it’s original design: square, with four tinyrooms opening onto a shotgun hall, the cabin rested uneasily upon fourirregular lumps of limestone. Its windows were merely open spaces in thewalls, which in the summer were covered with greasy strips of cheese cloth tokeep out the varmints that feasted on Maycomb’s refuse.” This descriptionpaints a very vivid picture of the cabin and also tells a little bit about theEwells themselves. From this we can infer that the Ewells took very little (ifany at all) pride in their home and it’s appearance. Later in the passage Leeadds, “What passed for a fence was bits of tree limbs, broomsticks and toolshafts, 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 onlyhousehold repairs the Ewells make are with things they find at the dump. Theimage Lee is trying to form of these people is made very obvious by her use ofdetails. The passage also gives quite a bit of insight into Mr.Ewell himself. Forexample, Lee states, “The varmints had a lean of it, for the Ewells gave thedump a thorough gleaning every day^?” This statement informs us that the Ewellsmain source of revenue is form the town dump. Quite a pathetic way to keepones family fed; but what can one expect for an unemployed alcoholic likeMr.Ewell? As Lee states earlier in the passage, “No truant officers could keeptheir numerous offspring in school; no public health officer could free themfrom congenital defects, various worms, and diseases indigenous to filthysurroundings.”
THIS DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR THESIS>However as terrible as he is as afather he serves quite a useful purpose as a contrast to Atticus Finch.Mr.Finch’s loving and attentiveness towards his children his is made veryobvious when compared to Mr.Ewell’s abusiveness and neglect.
“One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in aline, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, caredfor as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudiedeigned to permit a geranium on her premises.” Mayella Ewell is the eldest ofthe Ewell children, and only member of the Ewell family who has any pride andsense of dignity at all. As a result of that she is forced to be mainprovider and caregiver for the younger Ewell children as Lee expresses in thisstatement, “Nobody was quite sure how many children were on the place. Somepeople said six, others said nine; there were always several dirty-faced onesat the windows when anyone passed by.” With all those children to take careMayella was only able to get a few years worth of education, and had no timefor any friends. After being forced into this kind of life by her father onemight wonder why Mayella would want to lie under oath on the witness stand todefend his lies. Probably because she was afraid of what he would do to her ifshe told the truth, but also because she had been living with the abuse fromhim all her life, and couldn’t imagine her life being any different. In direct contrast to the Ewells was the “Negro settlement some five hundredyards beyond the Ewells.” As Lee states, “their cabins looked neat and snugwith pale blue smoke rising from the chimneys and doorways glowing amber fromthe fries inside. There were delicious smells about: chicken, bacon fryingcrisp as twilight air. Jem and I detected squirrel cooking, but it took areal country man like Atticus to identify possum and rabbit, aromas thatvanished when we rode back past the Ewell residence.” The members of theblack community lived in poverty like the Ewells, but unlike the Ewells theymanaged to keep their homes neat and their children fed.
Lee makes this comparison and then goes on the say that the Ewells are stillconsidered the better people in the eyes of Maycomb because as a demonstrationof the kind of discrimination that is simply accepted by towns like Maycomb.
This passage also brings up many subjects that could be considered universaltruths. For example, Lee states that, “Every town the size of Maycomb hadfamilies like the Ewells. No economic fluctuations changed theirstatus–people like the Ewells lived as guests of the county in prosperity aswell as in the depths of a depression.” This is true, almost every place hasits leaches, but I would doubt if most would be as hospitable as Maycomb is tothe Ewells. This passage also implies the effects of negative parenting onchildren. If Mr.Ewell had been a better father his children would have had abetter chance of being functional members of society. This would be true forany children living abusive or negligent environments. Harper Lee’s in-depth description of the Ewell house hold leads to theconclusion that even though the Mr.Ewell lived in disgusting, self-inflictedpoverty and abused and neglected his children he was still more respected thanany of the black people in Maycomb. This is because communities like Maycombjust assume that because a culture is a little bit different they are not asgood a the norm of the society.