How do the choices and decisions that an individual makes affect the community as a whole in To Kill a Mockingbird?Concerning Tom Robinson's trial.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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There is no better example to this question than by pinpointing Bob Ewell's decision to accuse Tom Robinson of rape. Although author Harper Lee never specifically spells out the truth about what happens between Tom, Mayell and Bob on the day that Tom enters the Ewell house, it is easy enough for the reader to recognize that Tom's version is the truthful one. It is an anrgy Bob who catches his daughter hugging and kissing Tom, and he nearly makes good his threat--

"... you goddam whore, I'll kill you."  (Chapter 19)

It is Bob who beats and chokes his daughter: The fact that he rapes Mayella is also a possibility (though unlikely at this specific time), since Tom remembers that Mayella has told him she'd

"... never kissed a grown man before an' she might as well kiss a nigger. She says what her papa do to her don't count."  (Chapter 19)

Bob's decision to cover up his own crime--and Mayella's willingness to go along with Bob's story out of fear of her father--and blame Tom has a divisive effect throughout Maycomb County. Most of the white citizens believe Bob simply because he is white, and a "jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'." Atticus is forced to defend Tom, though he has "hoped to get through life without a case of this kind." Atticus has a few supporters, like Link Deas and Dr. Reynolds, but he is bound to lose friends over Tom's defense. Citizens come from far and wide to see the "circus" atmosphere, and residents of Old Sarum even decide to try and lynch Tom. Injustice is assured when the jury finds Tom guilty despite the overwhelming evidence of innocence, yet the majority of Maycomb seems perfectly happy with the verdict. Tom's death comes next, but Bob cannot let that end things: He still wants revenge from those who have embarrassed him, and Maycomb is not safe when he drunkenly prowls about at night. Justice is only served when Maycomb's most infamous misfit, Boo Radley, ends Bob's heinous spree of hatred, returning the streets--if not the minds of the townspeople--back to normal.


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