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To Kill a Mockingbird
Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird
The Testimony of Mayella Ewell
Bob Ewell is an abusive, negligent alcoholic
Mayella is left to take care of the 7 kids and house*
Has fallen into the habit of asking Tom for help with her chores*
Cindy Gao, Jessica Wu, Julia Ng, Arielle Soldatenko, and Laura Clapp
"Mayella looked as if she tried to keep clean, and I was reminded of the row of red geraniums in the Ewell yard." (Lee 239).
Black and crippled: less of a threat, won’t tell
Mayella likes to feel superiority over someone for a change, as she has faced prejudice her entire life --> county's disdainful opinion on her family and their way of life
Asserts her authority using a derogatory name*
Her flowers are the only scrap of beauty in the otherwise filthy yard - just as Mayella wants to be the only exception to her family's poverty-stricken way of life.
In other words, she doesn't want to settle for the dirtiness and poverty that her family is known for
Mayella wants a better life
“‘Who beat you up? Tom Robinson or your father?’ No answer.” (Lee 251).
Scout and Jem see Mayella as sly, unlike the jury and judge; are not tricked by Mayella's outburst at beginning of trial.*
"there was something stealthy about [her confidence], like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy tail” (Lee 242).
Scout can see little details about Mayella that indicates she is nervous or lying.*
“she twisted her handkerchief into a sweaty rope; when she opened it to wipe her face it was a mass of creases from her hot hands” (Lee 241).
“Mayella looked at her father… he sat up straight and waited for her to answer.” (Lee 245).
“‘She says she never kissed a grown man before an’ she might as well kiss a n~er...She says, “Kiss me back, n~er.”’” (Lee 260)
Mayella doesn't feel any resentment towards Tom - she doesn't
him to go to jail because he has always been kind to her
However, she feels a small amount of attachment towards him (Tom helped her when her father didn't), but not enough to cause guilt about testifying against him either*
She is selfish and thinks only about herself: she testified against Tom to save herself from her father's wrath*
She is only testifying because her father is forcing her to
“...people like the Ewells lived as guests of the county in prosperity as well as in the depths of a depression.” (Lee 227)
“Nobody had occasion to pass by except at Christmas, when the churches delivered baskets…” (Lee 228)
Kindness and Pity
People who had been nice to Mayella before Tom: Christmas basket and relief check deliverers*
Reason for their kindness: pity
They had a "right" to express their pity because they were above Mayella on the social scale.
Tom Robinson also feels sorry for Mayella...
"'That n~er yonder took advantage of me an' if you fine fancy gentlemen wanta do nothin' about it then you're all yellow stinkin' cowards'" (Lee 251).
Perhaps she chooses Tom in particular because she wants to spend time with someone who is the opposite of her father...
“she seemed somehow fragile but when she sat facing us...she became what she was, a thick bodied girl accustomed to strenuous labor” (Lee 239).
"'Yes, suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n the rest of 'em-'
felt sorry for
, you felt
for her?'" (Lee 264)
Tom's motivation to help Mayella is also sympathy, just like the deliverers
Any white person in Maycomb could openly pity the Ewells because they would be considered superior
Because Tom is supposedly inferior, he is not allowed to show any pity
This makes his kindness seem more genuine to Mayella
"...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..." (Lee 244)
Why Tom Robinson in particular?
During the trial, Mayella is also prejudiced against Tom and tries to elevate herself by making him feel inferior. She makes it seem as if he is beneath her notice. *
“‘Well, sir, I was on the porch and - and he came along...’ ‘Who is “he”?’ Mayella pointed to Tom Robinson. ‘I’ll have to ask you to be more specific please,’ said Mr. Gilmer… ‘That’n yonder,’ she said. ‘Robinson.’” (Lee 241)
Tom is strong and helps Mayella do work even with his crippled arm...
...while her father is drunk and lazy and does nothing to help the family
Mayella testifies with the interest of self-preservation - she is somewhat indifferent to Tom's situation
A Child's Perspective on Mayella's Testimony
The children are more bothered by what is obviously a shaky account than the adults --> the children see the truth, details, and justice of the situation and not the social implications of the outcome.
"Somehow, Atticus had hit her hard in a way that was not clear to me" (Lee 252).
Mayella has no idea how to respond to Tom's kindness
She misinterprets it as romantic feelings and decides to act on it (by kissing him)
Mayella also kisses Tom because she feels like she is missing out on the experience of kissing a man
“‘She says she never kissed a grown man before..."'(Lee 260.)