In the coming of age novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee portrays many characters in various ways, but none more insidious than Mayella Violet Ewell. Mayella is the story’s boldest antagonist. She is a static character who undergoes no inner change throughout the story, although is one of the most influential characters. This character demonstrates imprudent and inequitable actions, such as accusing an already maltreated, innocent black man of raping and assaulting her. Mayella acts in such a disgusting and unjust manner because her father has compelled and provoked her to do so. Mayella is a misled, immoral, motherless child who is beaten by her alcoholic father, Robert Ewell. In an attempt to attain power in a shabby, pitiful, existence, Mayella costs an impeccable man his life. Despite the sympathy one feels for Mayella Ewell, her sinful choices and decisions cause her to be portrayed as fraudulent, compulsive, and cowardly toward some of the most charitable citizens in Macomb County.
Mayella Ewell illustrates herself as fraudulent when she repeatedly bursts into tears with an attempt to attain people’s pity or because she is aware that the validity of her responses are questionable- “Mayella stared at him and burst into tears.” (Page 240) and also because she lies about an immaculate defenseless man to the jury, correcting her self and making adjustments to her answer frequently, such as when she says, “No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do. He hit me.” (Page 248.) Mayella inflicts abhorrence upon innocent Tom Robinson when she claims that Tom had beaten and assaulted her; this causes every white man within the illiberal boundaries of Maycomb County to rebel against Tom’s lawyer, whom is also the story’s illusive beneficial protagonist, Atticus, and become more affronted with black man. There are many discrepant assumptions that could be made about the reasoning behind Mayella’s fraudulent actions, but one to be strongly considered from decisions characterized by throughout the novel are many involving her Father, Robert, whom was a drunk and rapacious man. After having witnessed his daughter with Tom Robinson, he was enraged; he raped and assaulted his daughter. Since he could confirm that Robinson was on his property, Robinson was an easy target. Tom was a black, male, in the vicinity, and since it is a small town, he determined that Tom might have had a police record. Bob Ewell was certain that the one advantage he would have to Tom Robinson in a town of prejudice and discrimination, was being white. Consequently, Mayella was compelled to lie against an innocent man, to guard her family from nuisance.
“She did something every child has done- she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her. But in this case she was no child hiding stolen contraband: she struck out at her victim – of necessity she must put him away from her – she must destroy the evidence of her offense. What was the evidence? Tom Robinson.”(20-43-44) Her desire to destroy a crippled man accused of raping her when it is physically impossible causes her to be thought of as compulsive. Mayella performs a role for public consumption that of the poor innocent white woman attacked by the evil black man, who must be protected by chivalrous white men. (Shmoop) Despite Mayella’s imprudence as an Ewell, in accusing a black man, she’s able to access the privileges off white southern womanhood. Perhaps Mayella Ewell does not see the apparent injustice with what she did, just that she got caught, and is now attempting to do damage control with her father by lying to the court so he does not receive any consequences. While people believed it was Robinson, Mayella gained positive attention as the poor white woman raped by the insidious black man.
Throughout the book, there’s a tension between what Mayella is and what she needs to be to justify the condemnation of Tom Robinson. Mayella makes cowardly decisions as she is pressured by society and refuses to stand up for what is right. In order to convict Tom, the jury must believe in, or atleast pretend to believe in, the fragile, helpless girl who gets taken advantage of by Tom, rather than the desperate lonely woman who desires him. (Shmoop) Among the trash in the Ewell yard, there is one spot of beauty “Against the fence in a line, were six chipped-enamelslop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s” (17.64) This suggests that Mayella aspires to be better than her surroundings, to acquire something bright in her dull world, to strive for higher things. But whatever Mayella’s hopes and dreams are, she is far too cowardly to go about obtaining them the right way.
Mayella’s unawareness of her compulsiveness, fraudulence, and cowardliness causes one to feel almost sympathetic for her. Mayella Ewell is pressured by society to display herself as a compulsive prejudice white woman. She displays fraudulence as she lies against a helpless innocent black man to a prejudice jury and portrays cowardliness as she refuses to stand up for what would humanely be considered as just. Many characters are portrayed throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but none more deceitful than Mayella Violet Ewell.
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In the coming of age novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee portrays many characters in various ways, but none more insidious than Mayella Violet Ewell. Mayella is the story’s […]