Tom Robinson (an innocent black man accused of raping a white young woman), experiences the prejudice of a white jury during the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, emphasizing the truth of discrimination as well as racism within Maycomb’s society during the 1930’s.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a famous novel that has been read by millions of people from around the world. This novel is significant as it reveals the disease that racism is. Through this novel, Harper Lee highlights that people are judgmental and can be like sheep as they learn to live by a widespread opinion.“People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for”, is a quote by Harper Lee that emphasizes this truth.
A number of different events happen throughout the novel, including Tom Robinson, an innocent black man being accused of raping a white young woman, Mayella Ewell. Atticus Finch (a prominent lawyer, father to Jeremy and Scout Finch), was to take on Tom’s case, as Tom being married , and black in a society in which racism was deep rooted , made of the accusation a scandal.The accusation begun through Tom helping Mayella with chores around her home as she asked him to. Tom was gentleman, so he helped Mayella out of kindness and compassion, but Maycomb’s society did not agree with such thing. A black man feeling compassion over a white woman, shown on the following quote from the novel, as Tom said to Atticus: “Mr Finch, if you were a nigger like me, you’d be scared, too”. This quote reveals the sad truth about Maycomb’s society, given that it shows that one of Maycomb’s people, Tom Robinson, was scared for his life due to white supremacy. Tom’s experience revealed the underlying racism within Maycomb’s society.
As the trial goes on, Mr Tate (Maycomb’s Sheriff) states that Mayella was badly beaten, emphasizing on marks around her neck, as if she had been choked. Within these statements, Mr Tate also said Mayella’s right side of her face had been beaten too, as she had a black eye on that side of her face. This evidence affirmed Mayella’s abuser had used two hands to choke her, and was left-handed. Tom was crippled. His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. Following Reverend Sykes conversation with Jem (Atticus’ son) as the trial went on, “he got it caught in a cotton gin, caught it in Mr Dolphus Raymond’s cotton gin when he was a boy…like to bled to death…tore all muscles loose from his bones”, which obviously proved Tom’s innocence given that he couldn’t of beaten Mayella as badly with one hand. Tom was found guilty any way. The jury was made out of six white men, which showed no diversity or whatsoever. Tom was found guilty because of the color of his skin, not because of this major accusation, again reflecting the truth of Maycomb’s society. A society which lived with a big problem- deep rooted racism.
Following the past events during the trial, it comes to Mr Gilmer’s (Mayella’s lawyer) time to interrogate. He begins by asking Tom about him busting up chiffarobes and kindling for Mayella, as those were the things she asked him to do for her. Gilmer continued by using words to make Tom feel belittled and as if he was less than Maycomb’s white people as he was black. These were followed by Mr Gilmer calling Tom “boy”, as he rhetorically asks Tom by saying “Had your eye on her a long time, hadn’t you, boy?” suggesting Tom was spying on Mayella, as he was actually passing by on his way home. By calling Tom “boy”, and not by his name, Mr Gilmer was simply trying to remind the jury who Tom was in their eyes: a black man. Tom’s experiences during the trial and Mr Gilmer’s ways of referring to Tom plainly show Maycomb’s people’s way of being toward the African american community, which links to their truth once again - underlying racism.
As Tom was found guilty, he begins to serve his sentence in prison. He had no faith in the system, after being convicted on a case which was fully based under circumstantial evidence. Tom tried to escape but was shot to death. “Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn’t have to shoot him that much”, is a quote from the novel that shows systematic racism within the police force of Maycomb, Alabama. This, again, highlights underlying racism, not only within society, but Maycomb’s law enforcement too. Racism can cause a lot of damage to both individuals and communities, as shown throughout the novel.
Racism is a Universal Problem that has existed for hundreds of years. As Leviticus 19:9-18 says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself: I am the Lord” is a quote which has became a life lesson, as in another words it states to treat people as you’d like to be treated. As we deal with many problems, such as a current global pandemic, it’s important that people become aware of things we will sooner or later have to deal with to make of the world a better place, such as Racism.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee deals with the character of Tom Robinson, experiencing the cold prejudice, discrimination and racist attitudes during a case he was wrongly convicted for, bringing to light the truth of Maycomb’s society, a strongly deep rooted racist society.