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Villain Overview

…so help me God.
~ Bob Ewell's first quote in the novel.
Too proud to fight, you n*gger-lovin' bastard?
~ Bob trash talking Atticus.

Robert Edward Lee "Bob" Ewell is the main antagonist of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and its 1962 film adaptation. He is the irresponsible and selfish leader of the Ewell clan, who seeks to become a hero in the eyes of Maycomb County by incriminating Tom Robinson and having him thrown in jail.

He is portrayed by the late James Anderson in the film adaptation.



Robert E. Lee Ewell was the patriarch of the Ewell clan, a large family of degenerates best known for only coming to school on the first day and then never showing up again. He is a raging alcoholic who takes very poor care of his family and only feeds them by hunting local wildlife. He also has no respect for others, just as Maycomb County has no respect for him. He has 8 children, one of which was Mayella Ewell.

He and his family lived as guests of Maycomb County during the Great Depression, and lived in prosperity. They didn't have enough money to neither keep their offspring in school nor get public health officers to treat them of illnesses. They lived in a cabin which was once a home for African Americans, and located behind the town garbage dump. The cabin had sheets of corrugated iron supplemented to its walls, and the roof had hammered tin cans for the shingles. It was shaped like a square, and had 4 tiny rooms which opened onto a shotgun hall. It also rested on 4 structures of limestone rock, which were covered with greasy strips of cheesecloth in the summertime; this was done to keep out wild animals which feasted on refuse in Maycomb.

Every day, the Ewells collected items from the dump and took them to where the cabin was, and the fruits of their industry which have not been eaten made the area around the cabin look like a messy playhouse. Many of these items included tree-limbs, broomsticks, tool shafts, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes, and grubbing hoes. It also included the remains of a Model-T Ford on blocks, a discarded dentist’s chair, a very old icebox, old shoes, worn-out table radios, picture frames, and fruit jars. On one corner of the yard, however, were 6 chipped-enamel slop jars having red geraniums inside of them, which people said belonged to Mayella Ewell.

Nobody was sure how many children were at the Ewells' property. Many people said there were 6; others said there were nine. However, it was sure there were several dirty-faced children facing out the windows when anybody had passed by, but nobody passed by the Ewells' cabin except at Christmas Day, except when the churches brought baskets, and when the mayor of Maycomb told the Finch family to help the garbage collector by taking out their own trees and trash and throwing them into the dumpster.

To Kill a Mockingbird

During the story, he beats his daughter Mayella, and frames a black man named Tom Robinson for beating up and raping Mayella, who faces a possible death sentence, hoping that Maycomb County would consider him a hero for doing so.

At the trial, Tom is defended by Atticus Finch, who makes a strong case for the defendant and exposes a number of flaws in Mayella’s story which makes people suspicious of Bob, although Tom is officially found guilty due to the unfair racial bias of the court system.

Though he was successful at convicting Tom Robinson, he gets angry at Maycomb County for still not respecting him. Later, Bob Ewell swears revenge on Atticus for defaming him, and spits in his face, and even harasses Helen Robinson, Tom’s widow after Tom tragically dies while trying to escape from prison before an appeal could be made; however, Link Deas, Tom's former employer, threatens to throw Bob in jail if he ever harasses her again.

Ewell still wishes to get revenge on Atticus Finch for what he managed to prove in court. At the climax of the book, Ewell returns and tries to personally hurt Atticus by attempting to kill Scout and Jem with a kitchen knife while they are walking home through the woods, but is thwarted when Boo Radley shows up to save them, killing him with his own knife in a struggle in the process. The next day, in order to keep Boo out of jail, Mr. Tate attempts to cover up the truth about Ewell's death by making it seem like he had accidentally stabbed himself during the struggle.