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In To Kill a Mockingbird, decribe Tom Robinson's character up to the end of chapter...

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bonita-rai | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 29, 2012 at 3:12 PM via web

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, decribe Tom Robinson's character up to the end of chapter 19?

Consider what the reader learns about his behaviour, personality, home/family, how he is similar and different to Boo Radley and what life is like for him.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 29, 2012 at 5:34 PM (Answer #1)

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We don't know much about Tom Robinson until the trial gets going. In spite of Bob and Mayella Ewell's accusations, Tom seems like a hardworking, humble person, and someone who, in a quiet way, is acutely aware of the history of Maycomb's families and their undercurrent of social structures, including the residual racism. Evidence of Tom's underplayed intelligence about all this is the fact that, in his testimony, he claims he helped Mayella because he felt sorry for her. Rather than rail against his accusers, he remains patient, objective, and thoughtful. In this way, he is similar to Atticus.

Boo Radley shares similarities with Tom. From the title, To Kill a Mockingbird, both Tom and Boo fit Miss Maudie's description which is that they (mockingbirds) "don't east up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us" (Ch. 19). Like Tom, Boo has been outcast (partially voluntarily) by Maycomb. Evidence that Boo is also aware of the duplicity of Maycomb's less liberal inhabitants actually comes from Jem's theory about Boo at the end of Chapter 24, when Jem says:

I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time . . . it's because he wants to stay inside.

There is certainly a connection with Boo and Tom in that they both help those who need it: Jem and Scout, and Mayella respectively. Boo refrains from challenging anyone who chastises him, primarily by ignoring them altogether. Tom does likewise. When asked if he thinks Mayella is lying, he once again takes the moral high ground, but not in a condescending way. In Chapter 19, responding to Mr. Gilmer, Tom says, "I don't say she's lyin', Mr. Gilmer, I say she's mistaken in her mind." I guess the one big difference between Tom and Boo is that Tom is more openly, publicly helpful. Boo was helpful in secret, kind of like he was still a child acting out a superhero fantasy.

One could only speculate how much Boo knew about Tom's trial and if, possibly, Boo was affected and/or inspired by Tom's story. But really, it wasn't until Tom testified that anyone in Maycomb could claim to know anything about Tom, other than Tom's family, Atticus and Mayella herself. Of course, many in Maycomb had made up their minds about Tom (and Boo), prior to the trial, without knowing them at all.

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