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to kill a mockingbird

Explain how exactly Bob Ewell died. Be sure to give an account of both knives and all relevant parties. In The Gray Ghost, Stoner's Boy symbolically...


Since Sheriff Heck Tate basically covered up the true events of what happened when Bob Ewell was killed, the exact facts are unknown. However, we can assume that Boo Radley killed Ewell with the kitchen knife; the other knife found was a switchblade, which Ewell is known to have carried.

During Scout's narration and later explanation to Sheriff Tate, she recalls that "Something crushed the chicken wire around me. Metal ripped on metal..." The metallic sound was no doubt Ewell's knife trying to get at Scout. She believes that Jem tried to pull her up and lead her to safety, but it may have been Boo. She then felt Jem "jerk backwards," followed by a "dull crunching sound" and then Jem's scream. When Scout attempted to aid Jem, she ran into "a flabby male stomach," no doubt that of Bob Ewell. Ewell was then "jerked backwards and flung on the ground" by Boo. Next, Scout heard heavy breathing, sobbing and violent coughing--Ewell dying from Boo's kitchen knife.

Sheriff Tate announces to Atticus that Ewell is dead "with a kitchen knife under his ribs." Although Atticus believes Jem may have been involved, Sheriff Tate makes it clear that a boy with a broken arm would not have had the strength to plunge the knife as strongly as it was; this signifies that only Boo could have killed Ewell. They discover metallic scrapes on Scout's costume--the marks left by Ewell's switchblade.

Sheriff Tate's coverup begins when he decides to claim the kitchen knife belongs to Ewell (instead of Boo), and that he fell on this knife by accident. Tate explains the switchblade (belonging to Ewell) as one he took

"off a drunk man downtown tonight. Ewell probably found that kitchen knife in the dump somewhere. Honed it down and bided his time..."

Atticus now understands Tate's intentions, who explains his actions by imploring, "Let the dead bury the dead this time." Sheriff Tate's dual purpose is to keep both Boo and young Jem from having to go through a lengthy investigative process. Ewell's death was a "great service" to Maycomb," and Tate (and Atticus) considered Boo a hero.

In the book, The Grey Ghost, which Atticus reads to Scout later that night, Stoner's Boy represents Boo Radley. Stoner's Boy has been accused of misdeeds, and is chased but never caught. Like Boo, Stoner's Boy was not guilty of the accusations, and he--like Boo--turns out to be "real nice."

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