In To Kill a Mockingbird, what is Tom Robinson's job? How is Tom affected by the things others say to him?If possible, please provide quotes from the book.

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bullgatortail's profile pic

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

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In spite of his disability, Tom Robinson is a hard working field hand in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. On trial for the rape of Mayella Ewell, Tom testifies that "I picks for Mr. Link Deas... I works pretty steady for him all year round"--picking cotton and pecans. The previous November, when Tom was accused of his crime, "I works in his yard fall an' wintertime."

When Mayella first asked Tom to "bust up her chiffarobe," he felt uneasy entering the Ewell home, but his innate kindness prevented him from refusing her request. When she kissed him and told him to kiss her back, he tried to run from the house because "I was scared." While being cross-examined, Tom admitted that he "felt right sorry for her"--an admission that did not sit well with the prosecutor. When he was shot and killed, he ran in a "blind raving charge" toward the fence. Tom is portrayed as a soft-spoken, married family man. Although he once spent 30 days in jail for disorderly conduct, he was a good worker who Link Deas claimed "ain't had a speck o' trouble outta him." 

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This is a good question. In the cross examination, we find out more about Tom Robinson. He picked cotton, pecans, and did yard work. 

“I picks for Mr. Link Deas.”
“Were you picking cotton in November?”

“No suh, I works in his yard fall an‘ wintertime. I works pretty steady for him all year round, he’s got a lot of pecan trees’n things.”

As to how Tom responds to other people, we can say a few things. First, Tom is incredibly polite and respectful. During the trial, he calls all the people "suh." He is also honest. Even when his testimony can be construed negatively, he responds honestly.

Tom Robinson’s forehead relaxed. “She’d call me in, suh. Seemed like every time I passed by yonder she’d have some little somethin‘ for me to do—choppin’ kindlin‘, totin’ water for her. She watered them red flowers every day—”

Tom is also generous. We learn that he received no payment for his work for Mayella.

“Were you paid for your services?”

“No suh, not after she offered me a nickel the first time. I was glad to do it, Mr. Ewell didn’t seem to help her none, and neither did the chillun, and I knowed she didn’t have no nickels to spare.”

Finally, we can see that Tom had a clear sense of propriety. During the trail he did not want to repeat the words of Bob Ewell. But when Atticus made him speak, he said these words:

Tom Robinson swallowed again, and his eyes widened. “Somethin‘ not fittin’ to say—not fittin‘ for these folks’n chillun to hear—”

“What did he say, Tom? You must tell the jury what he said.”

Tom Robinson shut his eyes tight. “He says you goddamn whore, I’ll kill ya.”

“Then what happened?”

“Mr. Finch, I was runnin‘ so fast I didn’t know what happened.”

“Tom, did you rape Mayella Ewell?”

“I did not, suh.”

Tom is a gentle soul, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

happyface22's profile pic

happyface22 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Honors

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Please provide page numbers if possible.

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