To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee shows multiple people deserving of compassion, during the hard times of the Great Depression. Mayella Ewell is a misunderstood girl who is exposed for her false and rude accusations against an innocent African American man. When looking at Mayella’s family life, being the oldest of many children without a mother, Mayella must care for her poor and broken family, a burden she must take on by her lonesome. Mayella and her lonely life push her into kissing Tom Robinson, a black man who took pity on her harsh life.
This book illustrates the pitiful life of Mayella Ewell, a character worthy of compassion, despite her socially unacceptable actions.
Despite living in a big household, Mayella Ewell, portrayed as a lonely person, has no one to help her other than herself. As Atticus showed to Mayella Ewell that “A nineteen-year-old girl like you must have friends”(294), Mayella thought Atticus was mocking her, displaying that Mayella really doesn’t have any friends.
Mayella clearly never spoke with anyone her age since she said that she only went to school for two or three years. Scout’s realization at the trial that “Mayella must have been the loneliest person in the world”(256), shows that it was apparent to the people at the trial that Mayella was a motherless child surrounded by her siblings that didn’t respect her, and had an abusive father that would often leave the family for long amounts of time due to hia problem with drinking. On a bigger scale, Mayella is secluded from the world, living her life separately because of her lowly status as a Ewell. As a result of the world of loneliness surrounding Mayella, she seeks comfort in Tom Robinson, a black man, to feel dominant and controlling in a situation, for once in her life. When Tom Robinson pointed out in the trial “I was trying to help her out”(263), it exhibited that Mayella’s forthcoming actions toward Tom, were out of desperation and loneliness, not out of cruelty.
At the start of Mayella’s testimony, her lie while on stand, convicting Tom Robinson guilty of rape, was caused by the fear implanted by her father, Bob Ewell, and her attempt to make him proud. Throughout the court scene, the revealing details about Mayella’s hard upbringing and relationship with her father is questioned, when she answers Atticus’s question about Bob Ewell’s behavior with “he does tollable, ‘cept when- he’s drinking” (202), hesitating due to her father’s presence in the courtroom. Mayella, paralyzed by the fact that her father may beat or sexually abuse her if she does not lie to convict Tom Robinson with a crime he did not commit, is torn between her morals and fear for a horrific future that may await her. Even while in testimony, several times Mayella cries, covering her guilt and fear with the excuse that Atticus was mocking her, presenting Mayella as a fragile and vulnerable character. Atticus answers to the situation with “Let her cry if she wants to, judge. We’ve got all the time in the world” (204), knowing that Mayella was not ready to tell the truth with her father within close proximity. At the end of the court case Atticus starts asking several questions simultaneously, and Mayella breaks down emotionally, finalizing her testimony with mixed feelings of anger, fear, and guilt.
The result of the trial, and the lie Mayella recited during her testimony, was the result of her surrounding harsh background and family life. Mayella’s house, a “cabin rested uneasily on four lumps of limestone.”(227), the unsound foundation of the house represents Bob Ewell, an unstable father, making Mayella the product of a bad environment. Mayella Ewell’s lifestyle, defined by the social and historical status of her family, is hindered her potential for being more than her circumstances allow. Mayella’s true caring and loving personality, shown by her ‘Brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson…’ (227), indicate that Mayella can care for something as tenderly as Miss Maudie, a friend of the children Jem and Scout, making it clear that this is nothing other than a culprit of a bad environment. Surrounding her “brilliant red geraniums” (227), “chipped-enamel slop jars”(227) indicate that beauty and goodness can exist even in the most corrupt places of society. When Mr. Finch respectfully asked Mayella a question, she answered, “Won’t answer a word as long as you keep on mockin me. Long as you keep on making fun of me.”(227), a sign that Mayella, a character not given any respect in her home, is constantly alert to find insults and threats, a lifestyle common to her in household.
A character torn between morals and life decisions, Mayella Ewell, displays and proves in various accounts to be a character worthy of compassion, in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Mayella’s decision to lie on stand after she swore to tell the truth, was well justified by the loneliness in her life, the fear in telling the truth, and her harsh family and background life. Mayella cares for her unprivileged family while her unemployed father, Bob Ewell, the only adult-like figure in the household, spends the little money their family owns on alcohol, the reason for his abusive behavior towards his daughter. Mayella is secluded from the world because of her status as a Ewell, is constantly afraid due to the abuse she endures from her father, and influenced and hindered due to her family history and background. In a town full of prejudice, Mayella is quickly overlooked as a dirty Ewell, however, looking at the whole picture, it is apparent that Mayella’s actions and family life lead her to be a character worthy of compassion.
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Cite this Compassion For Mayella Ewell?
Compassion For Mayella Ewell?. (2021, May 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/compassion-for-mayella-ewell/