The novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is full of examples of courage, but it has the examples of the exemplar cowardice as well.
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Cowardice has different forms in the novel. The first example of cowardice is the behavior of Mayella Ewell. She has no friends, and her father is an alcoholic. It is unlikely that a young person would grow up courageous and righteous in such an environment. Her mind and heart are torn apart by the desire to be close to someone special and the influence of Bob, her despotic father. It becomes the key moment in the life of Tom Robinson. The only problem of Tom was his skin color.
The prejudice of the people conditioned by the flourishing racism had made Tom suffer because of the women he had never touched. Mayella Ewell says on the trial: “I got somethin’ to say an’ then I ain’t gonna say no more” (Lee 167). There was a moment when she wanted to confess, but Mayella chose to lie and make Tom’s life miserable. In fact, she caused his death because of the feeling of despair and loneliness. Additionally, she was afraid of the reaction of the crowd.
Mayella was weak and intimidated by her father and the people around to have the courage to tell the truth. It can be said that Mayella was afraid of the responsibility that she should have embraced to admit the falseness of the accusations and become the court-recognized liar in front of the entire town. The truth could have saved Tom’s life. However, it would make Mayella look incredibly miserable, and she was too afraid of that. Fear had killed an innocent man.
Another example of cowardice is the life of Bob Ewell. He is an alcoholic beating his daughter. Bob plays his part in the procession of Tom Robinson as well as Mayella, falsely accusing him of the rape that has never happened. He is a coward because he has no courage to say the truth as well as his daughter. However, Bob Ewell is more than just a coward. He is a blackguardly person that is capable of terrorizing the widow of Tom whom he and Mayella have wrongly accused. It is beyond the limits of the hypocrisy and cowardice. Additionally, he decided to repay Atticus for the humiliation and attack his children. Bob, of course, did not have the courage to seek for satisfaction as a man, standing face to face to Atticus.
All he could do was to get drunk and take his anger out on Atticus’ children. These words characterize Bob and his cowardice as best as possible: “Low-down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill children. He’d never have met you face to face” (Lee 269). Alcoholism can be considered as the cowardice as well because it is the avoidance of reality. Bob could not live his life without alcohol. He could not raise his daughter properly because he was afraid to become responsible for her happiness. Bob was not a decent man, and he died as a coward. No one would search the true reasons of his death because his actions outraged even the Sheriff Tate. It explains a lot about the attitude of people towards such a negative person as Bob Ewell was.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1988. Print.
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