What impression are we given in this extract from To Kill a Mockingbird and how does Harper Lee use language?
Extract is from the start of Chapter 19: "Thomas Robinson reached around, ran his fingers under his left arm and lifted it" to the bit where he says, "yes suh, she talked to me."
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This passage employs a focus on physical detail. This physical detail is used to convey a sense of the emotional and also logical/legal importance of the moment.
Tom Robinson is the last witness called in the case; the only witness for the defense. When he takes the stand the prose of the passage is interested primarily in describing his efforts to do what the other witnesses are able to do with ease - to take the a witness oath with one hand on the Bible.
Tom Robinson's left arm, however, is crippled from a boyhood accident.
Tom's injury to his left arm keeps him from completing this task, though, importantly, he tries and appears prepared to continue trying until he is told to stop.
These details provide some insight into Tom's character while also demonstrating the idea that Tom could not have done much of what he is accused of doing. Without the use of his left hand, he could not have hit Mayella Ewell and given her the bruises on the right side of her face.
Although he is clearly proven innocent, the all-white jury convicts him of rape, a crime punishable by death.
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