What were the problems that were created in Maycomb, Alabama because of Mayella's accusation towards Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Mayella's false accusation has repercussions throughout the community. It results in Tom being jailed and being taken away from his family; they also lose the income that would have come from his daily wages, and it eventually leads to his unjust conviction and death. Mayella's charges further divide the community: Most of the white citizens side with the Ewells, but there are a small group who back Atticus's defense. Hostility grows against Maycomb's black citizens, and the men from Old Sarum even decide to take the law into their own hands when they decide to lynch Tom. Mayella's charges are accepted by the all-white jury, and Tom's conviction makes people---primarily Jem, Scout and Dill--wonder about the integrity of juries and whether such biased individuals should decide a man's fate when the death penalty is involved. Atticus's own safety, and that of his family, is compromised when Bob Ewell decides to enact revenge; other participants, including Judge Taylor and Tom's wife, Helen, are also harrassed by Bob. Bob's embarrassment over how Atticus has "humiliated" him on the stand eventually leads to violence against the children and his own death, and it causes problems for both Sheriff Tate and Boo Radley: Tate is forced to compromise his own integrity by falsely calling Bob's death self-inflicted in order to protect Boo, who is forced to kill Bob in order to protect Jem and Scout. Mayella's accusations also leave her disgraced--about lying under oath as well as her socially improper actions with a black man--and the rest of the Ewell children without a father, possibly not such a bad thing considering Bob's evil ways. Mayella and Tom's widow both face bleak futures, and Boo is forced to remain inside his house to avoid the inevitible rumors about his participation. Jem is left with a crippled elbow, and he and Scout are robbed of their youthful innocence over the episodes that began with Mayella's lustful feelings for Tom.


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