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A Comparison Of Bob Ewell And Atticus Finch

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  • Category: Character

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Bob Ewell and Atticus Finch are two of the main characters in the novel, “To kill a mockingbird”. In some ways, Mr. Ewell and Mr. Finch are very similar to each other; they are both single, have children and are well known in their society. But that is about all that the two men share in common. Throughout the course of the book, it becomes more and more apparent that Bob Ewell and Atticus Finch are like 2 poles of a magnet: totally different.

One of their main differences lies in their family life. Mr. Finch works hard and tries to give his family the best life he can. Although he’s strict, he never hits his children. On Page 56 Jem says, “I-it’s like this, Scout, Atticus ain’t ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way.” Atticus even hired a cook and maid for the house, Calpurnia, to take care of the children during his absence. Bob Ewell, on the other hand, neglects his children. He spends his main source of income, welfare, buying alcohol for himself. His children are unhygienic and unhealthy, and basically take care of themselves. He doesn’t realize the importance of school, and he doesn’t allow his children to go to school. The following quotation on page 183 proves this:

“The jury learned the following things: their relief check was far from enough to feed the family, and there was strong suspicion that Papa drank it up anyway-he sometimes went off in the swamp for days and came home sick; the weather was seldom cold enough to require shoes, but when it was, you could make dandy ones from strips of old tires; the family hauled its water in buckets from a spring that ran out at one end of the dump-they kept the surrounding area clear of trash- and it was everybody for himself as far as keeping clean went: if you wanted to wash you hauled your own water; the younger children had perpetual colds and suffered from chronic ground-itch; there was a lady who came around sometimes and asked Mayella why she didn’t stay in school- she wrote down the answer; with two members of the family reading and writing, there was no need for the rest of them to learn-Papa needed them at home.”

The above quotation paints a pretty clear picture of the life Bob Ewell has provided for his family.

Another main difference between Bob Ewell and Atticus Finch lies in their values. Bob Ewell has literally no values, and he has almost no limits on what he is capable of doing. Mr. Ewell accused an innocent man for raping his daughter, just to cover up the bruises that she got while he brutally beat her for seducing a coloured man. Mr. Ewell even went as far as to attempt to kill 2 young and innocent children just because their father had defended an innocent man in court. Atticus is almost the total opposite, with a well-defined set of values. Throughout the book, Atticus tries to be as fair as possible. Although he knew he was going to lose the court case involving Tom Robinson, he still took it, knowing that he was Tom’s last chance. He put up with people calling him names, but never gave up on Tom Robinson. Atticus never lost his temper, even when provoked by other characters such as Mrs. Dubose. Even when Mr. Ewell spit on Atticus, all he said was “I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco” (Pg. 217). We can see how understanding Atticus is from this quotation:

“He meant it when he said it. Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last bit of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than a houseful of children out there. You understand?” (Pg. 218)

From this quotation, we can see that Atticus values fairness, since he was ready to be punished so that someone else didn’t have to take it.

One other major difference between Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell is their status in the society. Atticus is well known throughout the town, and lives in a respectable part of the community. He is well educated, and represents many people in court, since he is a lawyer. Bob Ewell, on the other hand, lives behind the dump, has no real job, and is well known for being poor. He is un educated, and society knows that Mr. Ewell’s family can not survive just on the relief checks that they get, so Mr. Ewell is allowed to hunt and trap off season, just so that he can feed his family.

“In certain circumstances, the common folk judiciously allowed them certain privileges by the simple method of becoming blind to some of the Ewells’ activities. They didn’t have to go to school, for one thing. Another thing, Mr. Bob Ewell, Burris’s father, was permitted to hunt and trap out of season”

“It’s against the law, alright, and it’s certainly bad, but when a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains. I don’t know of any landowner around here who begrudges those children any game their father can hit.”

The above quotations, found on page 37, show that society bends rules just to prevent Bob Ewell and his family from starving to death.

In conclusion, Atticus Finch can be seen as the ‘hero’ in this novel. He does everything legally and fairly, and is ready even to take punishments to save others. Bob Ewell is like the ‘villain’; he cares about nothing and no one, and is prepared to do anything necessary if something comes in his way. In our society, both kinds of people exist, but if we were ever to have a perfect world, then people like Bob Ewell would no longer exist, and everyone would be like Atticus Finch, an ideal family man, an ideal citizen and an ideal human being.

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