To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about young Scout Finch's life in Maycomb County. Set in the precariously troubling time period of the 1930's, Scout's life takes a twist to the ugly when her father, Atticus Finch, defends a Negro accused of rape. Institutionalised racism is pervasive in Maycomb County and the fact that Atticus is defending, and even supporting a Negro, leads to most of Maycomb's citizens to feel outraged, especially a certain Bob Ewell.
Bob Ewell was the man who had accused Tom Robinson of raping his daughter, Mayella.Bob displays an unusually antagonistic and provocative attitude towards Atticus because he believes that Atticus is a "nigger lover". To Bob, that is the lowest that a white man can sink to. Although Atticus and Bob have stark differences in their principles and moral values, they also have intriguing similarities which make both of their characters a difficult yet interesting study.
A static character, Bob Ewell does not undergo any fundamental changes in the book and remains the shady and loathed antagonist. He is an abusive father who neglects his children and deprives them of a happy and memorable childhood.For example, he squanders all of his relief cheques to support his drinking habit instead of nourishing and supporting his children. Bob also instils the wrong set of morals for his children.
He does not teach his children proper hygiene; resulting in his son being the "filthiest human" Scout had ever seen. His son, Burris, even has 'cooties' (head lice) on him and refused to have a bath to get rid of his lice. Although he is a white man, Bob is despised and looked down upon by the rest of Maycomb County because of his stubborn refusal to better himself.The likeliest rationale as to why Bob is not a complete social outcast, even though all of Maycomb's citizens abhor him, could be due to the fact that he is a white man. He is lazy and relies on other people's support to get him through difficulties. The most plausible explanation why Maycomb County tries to help his family by bending a few laws and allowing him to hunt out of season to feed his under-nourished and starving children is possibly because Maycomb feels sorry for his children who had to be raised by such a neglecting and drunk father.
It is not the children's fault and Maycomb's citizens could not bring themselves to "take out their disapproval on his children". As Atticus had once told Scout, he didn't know of "any landowner who begrudges those poor children (the Ewells) of any game their father can hit". Like most of Maycomb County, Bob lives by, and believes in, institutionalised racism. Perhaps the reason why Bob is such a racist is because he is a bully, really, and he likes putting other people down to make himself feel good.
Bob also has no sense of honour or shame and this is illustrated at the end of the book when he goes after Atticus's innocent children. Atticus himself is quite a character. He, in a way, is the hero of this book. Although he is a single parent, he is a perfect role model to follow, being such a caring and understanding father to his children. Although his sister, Aunt Alexandra, feels that Atticus is not doing enough for his children, Scout thinks the exact opposite. Aunt Alexandra constantly accused Atticus of bringing Scout up poorly just because Scout was more of a tomboy and not a lady.
As Scout had pointed out, Aunt Alexandra would rather see her "playing with small stoves, tea-sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she (Aunt Alexandra) gave me" than see Scout running around in breeches and playing with Dill and Jem. Atticus educates his children to be morally and ethically correct people. He provides the child with examples on how to stand up for what you think is right and to respect the differences human beings have with one another. Atticus provides all these examples by practicing what he teaches his children.
For example, when Scout asked Atticus why he had to take the case, Atticus replied that this case was the one case that affected him personally since he knew how much focus would be on the case just because Atticus took Tom Robinson's side. To Atticus, the worst part of the entire thing was that they weren't fighting "the Yankees, we're (they were) fighting our (their) friends". Atticus also teaches Scout and his son Jem to be respectful and fair people by treating everyone equally.He advises Scout to learn a simple trick so that she would "get along better with all kinds of folks". Scout should try to look at things from a different person's perspective and to do that, she has to "climb into his skin and walk around in it". Atticus Finch is a courageous man who fights for what he believes in.
He always stands up for what he thinks is right and he constantly sees it through, even when it seemed like everyone was against him. By defending Tom Robinson, Atticus has proven himself courageous both mentally and morally.Atticus looks past the racism that was greatly present in Maycomb County and stood by Tom Robinson's side after listening to the facts of the story with a non-clouded judgement. As stated before, Atticus believes in equality amongst people and he knew that the court was deliberately being unfair to Tom just because he was a Negro. Bob and Atticus have many similarities although they seem to be total opposites.
For instance, Bob and Atticus are both widowed. Bob Ewell's wife died a long time ago and she left him with many children to raise.Atticus's wife also died when Scout and Jem were very young. Both Atticus and Bob rely on someone to help around the house, and also, with their children. However, they both have very contrasting ways when having help to raise their children.
Atticus has Calpurnia to discipline his children and keep the house clean. Aunt Alexandra does not approve of Calpurnia as she feels that Calpurnia is not a good enough influence for the children. However, Atticus disagrees by saying that his children had not "suffered one bit from her having brought them up.If anything, she's (Calpurnia) has been harder on them (Jem and Scout) more than anything". Atticus sticks up for Calpurnia when Aunt Alexandra questions his employment of her.
He truly treats her as family and does not degrade Calpurnia just because she is a Negro. It is evident that Atticus and his children love Calpurnia. In the Ewells' case, it is Mayella who takes care of the children. She does not receive praise from her father for taking care of her siblings diligently. Instead, Mayella is beaten by her father and abused.
Her care for her other siblings goes unnoticed by her father and it is extremely likely that her brothers and sisters do not appreciate her efforts either. It is hard to find any sign of love that Mayella receives from anyone of her family, no matter how hard she tries. Besides the fact that both men are widowed, they are also partly defined by their ancestors. This means that whoever their ancestors were had an impact, however great or small, on how the citizens of Maycomb County viewed these two characters.
For example, Simon Finch, their ancestor, was a respected member of the Maycomb County as he founded Finch's Landing and was a very pious man. Aunt Alexandra always told Scout to "try to live up to your (Scout's) name" because Aunt Alexandra believed that the Finches were "not from the run-of-the-mill people". It is apparent that the Finches are much respected in the community as Aunt Alexandra fit in Maycomb County "like a hand to a glove" and the name of the Finches "meant a lot to Maycomb County throughout the years".On the other hand, the Ewells "had been the disgrace of Maycomb County for three generations" as none of them "had done an honest day's work". Atticus even went as far to say that the Ewells were people, but lived like animals".
The most common thing that both Bob and Atticus share is having to deal with people who hate them. In Atticus' case, many people in Maycomb think he's a "nigger-lover" because he believes a Negro's word against a white man's word. They are very vocal about insulting and disrespecting Atticus, whether to him or behind his back.In Bob Ewell's case, people think he is merely white trash and it is possible that even he knows that they secretly consider him below the hard-working blacks.
However, that similarity of being hated leads to the most significant difference. When Atticus feels like everyone has turned against him, he still continues to do the right thing, even when it is him against a mob lusting for blood and even when he believes he is going to lose. He does have any fantasies of being in power or being better than anyone.He simply wants to do what is right.
On the other hand, Bob Ewell is determined to prove his "worthy" by attempting to display how much power he has over others. It is very likely that it was he who raped her, and not Tom Robinson, which is a clear power play. He accuses Tom Robinson and, in essence, gets him killed. He assaults Jem and Scout, two children who are no match for a grown man. He is a bully for power, and he abuses others to feel more powerful, as stated earlier. Another difference between them is the amount of courage in them.
As said before, Atticus has an immense amount of courage and that is demonstrated at his staunch refusal to do a poor job of defending Tom Robinson even when he is faced with a bloodthirsty mob. On the contrary, Bob does not have any courage; he dares not take the blame for his own misdeeds and instead aids, and probably had encouraged, his daughter to unjustly accuse Tom Robinson of raping her. What Bob has is audacity. The audacity to stand with a pleased smirk on his face while he puts an innocent man in jail.
In essence, Bob killed Tom Robinson for if it was not for Bob whose word counted more against Tom's, Tom Robinson would not have been in jail and therefore, he would not have attempted to stage an escape from jail, which in the end, had resulted in his death. One of the other differences that they have is that Bob is a racist while Atticus is not. Bob spits on Atticus and thinks very lowly of him for defending Tom Robinson. Bob has no qualms of calling Negroes "niggers" while Atticus reprimands his daughter for using that word. Atticus himself does not call Negroes "niggers" and he treats them with deferential respect.
As one might have inferred already, Atticus and Bob are central characters in this novel. The underlying similar characteristics that I have revealed are what help the reader to be more engaged in the book and these two seemingly opposite characters. Those attributes are what makes Atticus and Bob gravitate towards each other while the differences that they have split them apart. It is clear to see who the hero is here and why. Atticus, being a non-racist and a fair man, lives a happy ever after while Bob Ewell dies, stabbed by his own knife when Boo saves Atticus' children from Bob.