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Aside from the testimony of Bob and Mayella Ewell, Tom Robinson actually receives fair treatment and sympathetic words from most of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. The black residents of Maycomb defended Tom, as did most of Atticus' close neighbors; and Judge Taylor, Heck Tate and Link Deas treated Tom fairly. Perhaps the most telling quotes come while Tom is being questioned by the prosecuting attorney. When Tom admits that he "felt right sorry" for Mayella, Horace Gilmer is quick to interrupt.
"You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?" Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling.
The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But the damage was done. Below us, nobody liked Tom's answer.
Most of the courtroom and the jurors react hostilely to Tom's sympathetic feelings toward Mayella, and Gilmer continues to refer to Tom as "boy" throughout his cross-examination. Their hatred is not so much aimed at Tom but at the concept that no Negro should feel sorry for a white person. It is also plain that Tom's word will not be accepted over Bob's or Mayella's.
Tom Robinson was an outsider in Maycomb because he was black, which is also the reason that the general population of Maycomb did not really care for him. The majority of Maycomb's citizens did not appear to feel any real remorse for members of the black community. This is made very evident in the closing remarks made by Atticus Finch during the Robinson trial.
'...To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white.
'The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place...
'She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not and old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards...
'And so a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to 'feel sorry' for a white woman has had to put his word against two white people's. I need not remind you of their appearance and conduct on the stand--you saw them for yourselves. The witnesses for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption--the evil assumption--that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basicaly immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption on associates with minds of their caliber.'
This speech by Atticus clearly reveals the feelings and attitudes of Maycomb's citizens toward not only Tom Robinson, but also all black people. Had Maycomb society not regarded its black neighbors in such poor light, there would have been no need for Atticus to even address such truths or to do so with such passion.
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