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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird


by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird Mayella Ewell Quotes

Suddenly Mayella became articulate. "I got somethin' to say," she said.

Atticus raised his head. "Do you want to tell us what happened?" But she did not hear the compassion in his invitation. (18.165-166)

Mayella can't recognize Atticus's politeness or compassion. That shows just how different her world is from his—neither is something she's had any experience with, and so they're strange to her. Poor Mayella. Even our cold hearts almost feel sorry for her.

"I got somethin' to say an' then I ain't gonna say no more. That nigger yonder took advantage of me an' if you fine fancy gentlemen don't wanta do nothin' about it then you're all yellow stinkin' cowards, stinkin' cowards, the lot of you. Your fancy airs don't come to nothin'—your ma'amin' and Miss Mayellerin' don't come to nothin', Mr. Finch-" (18.167)

Why does Mayella choose "cowards" as her threat of choice for the men deciding her case? Especially since it takes more courage to go against the expected outcome and acquit Tom, right? We're guessing Mayella thinks that "coward" is the worst thing you can call a man—and why would she think that? If that's true, then what's the worst thing you can call a woman? Are women supposed to be brave, too?