Mayella Ewell To Blame For Tom's Death Analysis

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When it comes to the complex issues of prejudice and death, the attribution of blame can become exponentially more difficult. Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is set in Maycomb, a fictional town in southern USA during the Great Depression and follows the trial, conviction and eventual death of Tom Robinson, an African-American man, for a crime he presumably did not commit. The text largely presents Mayella Ewell as responsible for Tom’s death and although this is true to some extent, there are clearly several other factors at play. The lies and deception of Mayella Ewell clearly help the events to conspire that culminate in Tom’s passing. That being said, the true cause of these events is rooted in the prejudices and warped social structures…show more content…
The community seems to be divided into four main groupings, with each holding power over the ones below it. As Jem puts it “there's the ordinary kind like [the Finches] and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.” Thus, when Mayella needs a scapegoat to shift the blame for her actions, she looks to the one group with less power than her own, and finds Tom, therefore setting in motion the sequence of events that culminated in Tom’s death. Though this is not even the most blatant example of Maycomb’s group dynamics in relation to Tom’s death. The lynch mob that comes to kill Tom before the trial does so on the basis of an "evil assumption-that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around [white] women..." The significance of this event is that it emphasises to the reader that the prejudices of Maycomb were essentially a death sentence to Tom, or more figuratively to the black community as a whole, long before the Ewell’s ever screamed rape. In the end, not even Atticus’ stirring defence of Tom is enough for the white community to abandon their prejudices. Scout realises the frivolousness of the trial whilst reading Mr Underwood’s editorial - no matter how astounding of a…show more content…
Because of Mr Ewell’s way of life and his pattern of abusive behaviour, Mayella and her siblings “lived like animals”. This sad living situation is what led to Mayella’s desperate attempt at a relationship with Tom, therefore bringing the blame back to Mr Ewell. Though it is not stated it the text explicitly, it is likely that it was Bob Ewell, rather than Mayella that came up with the plan of accusing Tom of rape, as it would give Mr Ewell a chance to simultaneously publicly denounce a black man and make himself out to be the hero of the story. This is why, despite Tom’s conviction, Mr Ewell is infuriated by the results of the trial, as Atticus was still able to destroy “his last shred of credibility”, the exact opposite of what Bob had planned for the trial. This would suggest that Bob Ewell was willing to have Tom killed, not because he truly believed he had committed a crime, but rather so he could promote his own prejudiced narrative at the trial and restore to himself the power that the social structures of Maycomb had taken away. Because of this, many of the less prejudiced people in Maycomb, including Heck Tate and Atticus, felt that Bob Ewell had in essence, murdered Tom Robinson. Thus, when Bob is killed by Boo Radley out of defence for the Finch children, Tate insists that
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