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Tom reveals to the courtroom that he had regularly assisted at the Ewell place as he ‘felt sorry’ for Mayella being left with all the chores and all the children by her father. He explains that she had asked him on that particular day to ‘bust up a chiffarobe’ for her. Mayella had saved up enough money to send the children off to buy ice cream – implying that she planned her encounter with Tom to be unobserved. She tried to hug Tom and went to kiss him. Her father did observe the encounter, however, as Tom tried to flee.
“She says she 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.”
Tom was open and honest in his testimony, but he had uncomfortably revealed the depth of prejudice that existed in Maycomb. No one from the white community ever helped or acknowledged Mayella and she was starved of affection and company. Tom Robinson, however, according to the ‘rules’ of Maycomb, should never have seen himself as superior to this (or any) white person. His admission that he felt sorry for her was interpreted by the court as arrogance and assisted in the guilty verdict.
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