Upon cross-examining Mr. Heck Tate, what question does Atticus ask of Mr. Tate repeatedly?
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In chapter 17 Atticus asks Heck Tate if a doctor was ever called. The reason he repeats this question is to make it obvious to the jury (and judge) that no doctor was ever called. Because there was no doctor involved, there is no evidence that proves that she was beaten and raped. With no evidence, there is no case against Tom. The judge breaks into the examination and said,
"He's answered the question three times, Atticus. He didn't call a doctor."
Atticus replies to that,
"I just wanted to make sure, Judge." At that comment, the judge smiled at Atticus. He knew what Atticus was implying. He was even helping to point it out by interrupting.
In addition to asking Heck Tate if a doctor was ever called repeatedly, he also spends a great deal of time reinforcing the fact that Mayella Ewell was struck on the right side of her face by someone using their left hand. He asks Tate to recall correctly which side of the face Mayella was struck on, then asks again to be certain that the sheriff is remembering correctly. Both questions (the doctor questions and the battery questions) are dwelled upon by Atticus to show the jury that his client is innocent.
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