Tom Robinson’s Trial And To Kill A Mocking BirdHarper Lee’s novel ?To kill a Mocking bird’ revolves around Maycomb atypical rural town of the American South. The story is set in the 1930s a periodwhen racism and prejudice are commonly encountered in everyday life. The novelfollows the conviction of an apparently innocent Black man sentenced almostentirely due to his race.
It is through this man’s trail we see how harshMaycomb society is on minorities. During the trial scenes we learn a lot aboutpeople’s views and beliefs on other people and the strict codes by whichpeople have to live. We learn the most about Maycomb Society through the trial. Town trials were big social events in the 1930s. The trial is described as a?Gala occasion’ and many people acted as if they were attending a?Carnival’, rather than to see a man on trial for his life.Order now
The town’sreaction to what is happening tells us a lot about people’s ideology and thegeneral time frame. We learn more about the mutual hatred between AfricanAmericans and ?whites’ in a legal sense. Groups like the ?Idler’sclub’ and the Mennonites enjoyed seeing a Black man’s freedom taken awayfrom him. Tom Robinson was found guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, in the face ofvery strong evidence that his accusers were lying. One reason why he wasconvicted was because it was a white man’s word against a black man’s one. Tom, who is black, would be denied justice because of this.
Atticus reinforcesthis idea when he tells Jem ?in our courts, when it’s a white man’s wordagainst a black man’s, the white man always wins. ‘ Generally this was thementality of most Americans at the time. In Maycomb a white man’s word wasalways taken without any regard as to how trustworthy he was. Another reason whyhe was convicted was because Tom Robinson went against the accepted position ofa Negro by daring to feel sorry for a White person. All these prejudices are aresult of people holding onto performed ideas of a certain set of people. It isnot just racial prejudice, which is present in Maycomb but the narrow, rigid,intolerant codes of behaviour, which the townspeople wish to impose on others.
These prejudice all show the inability of the people to, as Atticus puts it?consider things from his point of view’ and the lack of understandingbetween them. The courthouse reflects the social division seen in Maycomb. Thecourthouse itself is very old fashioned in the way that it is built and itslaws. The segregation between Blacks and Whites is emphasised by the way theBlacks file in last and are seated in the balcony. Their kindly politeness toJem, Dill and Scout is again shown when the children come to sit in the?coloured balcony’.
Four Blacks give up their seats for them. This alsoimplies that White children have precedence over Black adults. We also can seethat the children’s admission to the balcony underlies their lack ofprejudice. A prime example of prejudice within the book is shown when theIdler’s club find out that Atticus will defend Tom ?properly’. They aredisgraced at this. Atticus is an example of someone who is an anchor of reasonwithin Maycomb.
He is chosen to defend Tom at trial because Judge Taylor knowsthat Atticus would give a fair defence. Atticus would fight his hardest to winthe case even though he is bound to lose, because this is what Atticus views asthe meaning of true courage ? ?Simply because we are licked a hundred yearsbefore we started is no reason for us to try to win’. By saying this Atticusbelieves that even if this is the hardest case he will use his courage to tryhis best, since it is morally wrong not to take the case just because there isno chance of winning. Atticus chooses to defend Tom Robinson when no otherlawyer would. He was one of the few respectable people not blinded by the racialinjustice Tom Robinson faced. Not only did Atticus defend Tom in the courthouse,but he defended him at jail on one occasion too.
Atticus’ beliefs are spokenin his speech on the code of the society. In this speech he spoke of the strictlaws, old traditions and ways of thinking that are still prevalent in Maycomb. Whites were not to communicate or get involved with Blacks. This was a codeMayella Ewell broke by tempting a black man ? ?She was white and she tempteda Negro she did something that in our society is unspeakable. ‘ The Juryhearing the case is all white this is because of their superiority in society.
Atticus hopes that by this justice will not be mocked as it has in the past. Mayella is viewed as an outsider. Although she is the prosecution in the case,Mayella never set out to intentionally hurt Tom. She was lonely and only wantedaffection from Tom, this being thought of as a crime at the time. Mayella didnot commit a crime, but in fact broke a moral code of society.
Mayellaconsidering tempting a Black man showed that her view on the Negroes was notentirely the same as the rest of Maycomb. However Mayella had been convinced oneway or the other that by convicting Tom was the only way to restore thefamily’s lost pride after she broke the moral codes of society. DolphusRaymond is also viewed, as an outsider who is rejected by Maycomb society;because he is a White man yet prefers to live with Negroes. He has a reputationof being a drunkard, but this is just a pretence. Mr. Raymond is actually a verysensitive man who loathes society and hates the ?hell white people givecoloured folks, without even stopping to thing that they’re people to’.
Dolphus, unlike Atticus does not have the courage to admit his preference ofNegroes. So, he presents himself as a drinker so people might think he is drunkand excuse him from his action. In Atticus’ basic summing up he talks abouthow for once people should look at Tom Robinson as a human rather than as a?Negro’ or a ?coloured man’. They would say that a man was immoral onlybecause the colour of his skin happened to be a little darker than their own. Atticus openly defies traditional thinking even while under scrutiny of theentire town, particularly in his final courtroom speech. Maycomb citizensbelieve that Tom Robinson is not, and should not be part of their lives or oftheir community Atticus, on the other hand finds faults with the towns’traditional views.
Thinking reasonably and intelligently, he knows he does notwant his children to grow up with similar views. He attacks old southerntradition by using the law. He lives by a traditional code in which justice ishighly valued. Atticus strongly believes that ?in our courts all men arecreated equal’. Atticus knows that if there is one place in which the time-honouredcodes of southern society can be broken, it is in a court of law.
He discovers,however, that tradition is not easily broken and laws are not easily changed. Nearly everyone in the town has a basic trust for Atticus that he will do whatis right, despite the fact they despise his independent thinking. Although theverdict is inevitable it has taken the jury time to reach. By the trial thejury’s ways of doing things have been changed.
Miss. Maudie Atkinson pointsout that usually with this kind of case the verdict would be reached in aminute. But this time it took a long time. As well as this he points out thatJudge Taylor appointed Tom the best possible lawyer ? instead of using anun-experienced Maxwell Green. Miss. Maudie uses these two things to defend thetown and its people in showing a sign of change.
She feels that they have made a?baby step’ in the right direction. Maycomb has changed a little bit, butthere is still a long way to go before black and white can be equal. Althoughdisappointed and frustrated by the verdict, Jem and Scout both learn valuablelessons. Atticus succeeds in conveying his simple message that when a white mancheats a black man, ?no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a familyhe comes from, that white man is trash.
‘ After the trial, Jem and Scoutdon’t care what people say about their ?nigger-loving’ father. It does notmatter because he has bestowed upon them a new tradition of thinking. Jem andScout do not think in terms of class and race. Scout does not have to think hardto know that she would ?let Tom Robinson go so quick the Missionary Societywouldn’t have time to catch its breath’ if it was up to her and if Jem hadbeen on the jury ?Tom would be a free man’.
Atticus is pleased by hischildren’s views. Atticus has one wish entering into the trial and that isthat Jem and Scout get through it ‘without catching Maycomb’s usualdisease’. One of the major themes that this novel presents is the loss ofinnocence that children were beginning to encounter at a younger age. During TomRobinson’s trial, Reverend Sykes says ?this ain’t fit for Miss. JeanLouise or you boys either’, thinking that the description of sexual harassmentwas a subject too mature for their age.
The children’s innocence allows themto see through the artificial barrier of colour and to accept and individual forwhat they are. Harper Lee uses Atticus and his relationship with his children tointegrate the themes of growing up and the law. Atticus raises his childrenaccording to his principles. His teachings to his children come back to rewardhim.
For example he explains to his daughter Scout how the Cunningham family ispoor but proud enough that they do not accept charity. This stimulates enoughquestions in her young mind that when the she is at the jail when the Lynch Mobarrives she effectively saves Tom Robinson’s life by unnerving the mob withinnocent questions about Walter Cunningham. In her innocent gesture, Scout makesMr. Cunningham realise that he is a father, not just part of a mob, and, in asense, he ?walks around in Atticus’ skin’ for a moment. Atticusdemonstrates great bravery in defending Tom Robinson.
Much of the Whitecommunity turns against him and even take out their rage on his children. Children like Cecil Jacobs and Francis both tease Scout about her father being a?nigger lover’. Aunt Alexandra feels that Atticus was bringing the familyname down. Despite this Atticus does not compromise his morals or allow hischildren to do so. The children in Maycomb are influenced very much by theirrelations.
This leads to many children picking up what comes from their parents?? My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an’ that Nigger oughta hangfrom the watertank!’ Absurd actions often interfere with young ones makingthem act in the same manner. Bob and Mayella Ewell portray the ?white trash’of Maycomb. Knowing the low esteem associated with the name ?Ewell’ theystrive to control people and maintain the status of untouchables. The Ewell’sdo not go to school, do not accept charity, and do not recogniseAfrican-Americans as real human beings. To accentuate his status Bob Ewelldehumanises the African-American, calling them ?niggers’ and treating themlike animals. The trial becomes a stage for another one of the Ewell’s games,a game for the whole town to witness.
The actions of this lead to dyerconsequences. The Ewells answer to no one and remain immune to the results ofsuch actions. A different type of prejudice shown in the novel is classprejudice. It is unconsciously shown by Scout as well as a few of hercompatriots on her first day at school. They attributed certain qualities toeach family in Maycomb and expected these traits to be hereditary. For examplethe reason which Scout gave as to why Walter refused the quarter which Miss.
Fisher offered was because ?he is a Cunningham’ and the reason why Burriswas so dirty and impudent was, as far as the children were concerned, wasbecause ?he is one of the Ewell’s’. This shows the complacent way in whichclass prejudice is treated within Maycomb, in Maycomb it is just taken forgranted, no questions asked. In fact the children, in stating thesecharacteristics of the Cunninghams and the Ewells did not even realise that theywere being prejudiced, they had just been brought up that way. Later, when Jeminvited Walter to teal Scout criticised his table manners.
Calpurnia and Atticuswere angry with Scout by saying that Walter was ?company’ and could eatwhatever he wanted. When Scout retaliated by saying that Walter wad not?company’ that he was just a ?Cunningham’, Calpurnia did not let thatserve as an excuse for humiliating him. In this way Calpurnia tried to stopScout gaining the class prejudice of Maycomb and to treat all people equally. When Scout innocently wanted to befriend Walter Cunningham, a farmer’s boy,Aunt Alexandra responded saying ?Finch women aren’t interested in that sortof people’. Scout vainly protested this bias and could not understand why twopeople could not be friends, regardless of monetary or scholarly status. AuntAlexandra is part of the Ladies Missionary Circle, which is a group, whichspreads the Christian faith in the community, but in this case they turn out tobe the small town gossips.
The ladies of the missionary circle speak withcompassion for the neglected tribes of Africa while insulting and demeaning theNegroes who work in their homes. The Missionary tea ladies’ comments about theBlacks is more than evident within the trial, they were part of a large group ofpeople who overlooked all the evidence in favour of Tom Robinson at the trial,just because he was Black. This is very typical of such a group as it is all agroup of white people. Another aspect of Maycomb society is shown through theyhypocritical prejudice shown at school. During school, where the teacher isexplaining the difference between democracy and dictatorship, the teacher usesthe United States as an example, Scout wonders how they can call themselves ademocracy when they are still prejudice against Negroes. The irony of Miss.
Gate’s lecture on democracy compared to her comments at the trial is evident. The irony is that US will be changing to make it fair between Black and White inorder to become a true democracy. Scout’s teacher plays a game of being asympathetic southern school teacher. She appears to be the perfect gentle woman,set in tradition and very sympathetic to the less fortunate, such as the Jews inGermany who suffer persecution. She says ?Persecution comes from those who areprejudiced’.
Miss. Gates’ part also includes the confidence in her higherstature, though she sensibly plays the part down. Many other towns-women alsomodel themselves after; they become role models. They set distinctions thatresult in the traditions of the town. The Black church in Maycomb, which was aplace of worship on Sunday, is described as a gambling house for white men onweek days.
This again highlights that segregation was not only evident in publicbuildings but places of worship too. When Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to herchurch the Black members of the congregation take their hats of to them inrespect. However Lula has great antagonism towards them. Lula felt that becauseall the white churches in town were segregated, why should white people beallowed in Black churches. This shows that the hatred between the two racesworks both ways.
Scout finds the church service to be similar to her own exceptfro a few differences. One of them which shock Jem and Scout greatly is the factthat Helen Robinson, Tom’s wife is collecting money, and not letting anyone gountil enough money has been collected The reason why she is collecting moneywhen she has the ability to work and earn her own money is because as herhusband was being charged for a crime like that, no one would employ Helen. EvenAtticus the character intended to have exceptional principles and moralsreflects the influences of being raised in the midst of southern traditions. When Calpurnia rides with him to tell of Tom Robinson’s death, she rides inthe back seat.
This she probably does by choice, as she is well aware of thecontroversy she may create if she was to ride in the front seat with Atticus. Few whites in Maycomb were actually willing to suffer the shame anddiscrimination by other whites bought by treating a black as an equal. The firstsign of prejudice in the novel is shown by the Finch children regarding BooRadley. They see him as a type of monster or a ?malevolent phantom’ as Scoutso aptly put it.
People were misunderstood because they were never really givena chance to become known. Boo Radley is a perfect example of one who wasmisunderstood, as shown by how Jem, Scout and Dill thought ?he’ll kill useach and everyone’. Boo too, was an outsider he was a man who kept away fromsociety, as he seemed to fear it. Boo was a man who was misunderstood andbecause of this he suffered injustice. Boo did not handle the injustice becausehe did not know about it. Harper Lees novel portrays themes which are asrelevant today as they were at the time of its setting.
Some children areinfluenced by society, but the innocence of some children prove vital in areasof the novel. An awful lot about Maycomb Society is learnt through the trial,and experience, which the whole community seems to share. The traits, which thetrial reveals about Maycomb Society, are generally evident elsewhere in thebook. For example these include racism, prejudice, gender bias, class system,narrow and strict codes of behaviour and gossip. Throughout the story ?To killa Mockingbird, people were placed in symbolic and actual prisons.
The importantthing is that these people conquered and broke-free from their own imprisonment.The same challenges and follies that were present in the novel are also presentin our communities; by reading ?To kill a mocking bird’ we can learn fromthe characters lives and possibly gain insight to our own.