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Tom Robinson says during the trial that he feels sorry for Mayella. It is the proverbial nail in his coffin. He does see her suffering every day, and the relationship actually went on for quite some time. He is not romantically attracted to her (he is a married man), but she is to him. She is in a hopeless situation. She is alone with all those children to care for and her father is abusive and does nothing to support the family. Seeing this, Tom tries to help her because he is a kind and generous soul. If he had never seen her suffer, he would never have been in the situation that was his doom.
It’s impossible to know for sure. But since Tom was such a caring character, I think he did know of her situation. Tom would have helped Mayella regardless of her situation, but I get the indication that Tom felt it was even more imperative to help her because of her situation.
Perhaps he recognized that she was alone raising the Ewell kids with a father that was abusive and neglectful. Tom felt sympathy for her. Tragically and ironically, Tom’s generosity in helping Mayella only adds to the prosecution against him because the people of Maycomb actually see his help as inappropriate. Also, in their racist ignorance, Maycomb’s citizens can’t imagine that a black man would help a white girl without sinister intentions. Tom’s innocence and Maycomb’s hypocrisy and guilt are highlighted by this fact. Tom always had good intentions and the jury was never going to give him the benefit of the doubt or a fair trial.
I think Lee intended for the reader to think Tom knew about Mayella’s situation because it adds so much to these themes of racism, innocence and guilt.
Yes. He has witnessed her abuse at the hands of her father, and has heard that Mr. Ewell considers Mayella the new "mother" of the household...including, but not limited to, intimate relations. Tom mentions in the book that he felt sorry for Mayella which is the reason he offered to help her whenever she asked for assistance. Unfortunately, Mr. Ewell is angry with Tom's helping Mayella, and decides to make an example of him by accusing Tom of raping and beating Mayella...perhaps an attempt to make Mr. Ewell himself feel better about his role in Mayella's miserable life and to make Tom suffer in lieu of Mr. Ewell simply because Tom is black. Mr. Ewell, regardless of the abominable behavior and lack of love and loyalty toward his daughter he displays, still considers himself above Tom (a truly decent and wonderful person) because of his white skin.
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