English 9 Honors-1
15 February 2013
The Sins of Mayella Ewell
“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (119). It’s a sin because all mockingbirds do is sing and bring joy to the world. All Tom Robinson tried to do was help Mayella Ewell and bring a little joy to her life and she accused him of rape. Harper Lee’s novel tells the story of two children, Scout and Jem Finch, as they come-of-age in Depression-era Alabama. The children quickly grow up as they witness their father defend a black man accused of raping a white woman even though he has no chance of winning. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee uses the characterization of Mayella Ewell’s guilt, loneliness, and fear as a source of motivation to accuse an innocent man of rape; this shows the reader that good and evil exist together.
First, it is reasonable to conclude that Mayella’s guilt about kissing a young black man led her to lie about rape. For example, when Atticus is speaking to the jury in court, he says, “I have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the state, but my pity does not extend so far as to putting a man’s life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt. I say guilt, gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She has committed no crime; she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. […] she was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards” (271-272). Atticus suggests that the reason she has accused Tom Robinson of rape is to get rid of her guilt. He claims to have pity for her, but not enough pity to justify her actions....
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