Homework Help

What according to Atticus is the thing that Mayella has done wrong in chapter 21 in To...

caroline15's profile pic

Posted via web

dislike 2 like

What according to Atticus is the thing that Mayella has done wrong in chapter 21 in To Kill A Mockingbird?

3 Answers | Add Yours

readerofbooks's profile pic

Posted (Answer #3)

dislike 1 like

In Chapter 21, we hear of the decision of the jury. As everyone is waiting, there is a feeling of uncertainty. The children, particularly Jem, believe that the verdict will be innocent, but the adults know that Tom Robinson will most likely be found guilty. 

Reverend Sykes tells the optimistic Jem these words: 

“Now don’t you be so confident, Mr. Jem, I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man...”

In light of this point, the wrong that Mayella committed against Tom Robinson is to blame him for a crime he certainly did not commit. She was covering up her shame, because she knew that she could get away with it, even if all evidence was against her, simply because she was a white woman and Tom Robinson was a black man. She knew the people, the town, and the outcome. So she worked the system to her favor. 

In Chapter 20 Atticus gives his rationale more clearly. 

“The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. The defendant is not guilty, but somebody in this courtroom is.

“I have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the state, but my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man’s life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt.

“I say guilt, gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with.


gbeatty's profile pic

Posted (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

Her crime, as Atticus says in Chapter 20, is that she "was white, and she tempted a Negro."


maggieslywn's profile pic

Posted (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

atticus does not believe that is what she did wrong, its that she put her reputation over her friend.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes