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Why can't Helen Robinson get work in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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rajdarshani | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 25, 2011 at 11:31 AM via web

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Why can't Helen Robinson get work in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

Posted May 25, 2011 at 12:25 PM (Answer #1)

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Helen Robinson, Tom's wife, can't get work because no white employers want to have anything to do with Tom or his kin, due to the circumstances of the charges (that Tom, a black man, raped a white woman). Although Reverend Sykes explains to the congregation that Helen can't leave her children alone while Tom is in jail, Scout realizes this is not necessarily true. She knows that many field workers take their children with them, putting them "in whatever shade there was" while the parents worked (usually the cotton fields). Calpurnia finally explained that

"Folks aren't anxious to have anything to do with any of his family."

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted March 1, 2015 at 4:46 PM (Answer #2)

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In a town like Maycomb, Helen finds it almost impossible to find work. Helen needs to take care and provide for her children while her husband, Tom, awaits his court date. Most of the people in Maycomb don't want anything to do with his family. People in the town believed that he was guilty. Being a black person in this town was hard enough, but adding that your husband is going on trial for raping a white woman makes it impossible. Being accused of this type of crime means everyone is looking at Helen as if she is guilty as well.

Scout is starting to realize the way the town works. She knows that Helen is a good person, yet she is seeing people treat her as if she has committed a crime. Atticus has taken Tom's case, he believes that his innocent, but he is about the only one in town willing to help. People want to hold Helen accountable for what her husband is accused of doing. When Jem and Scout go to church with Calpurnia, they see the church taking up a collection for Helen. Scout knows these people don't have any money, yet here they are, coming together as a community, trying to help this poor woman. It is a great show of the differences between the town. The white folks don't want anything to do with Helen, yet the black community comes together to show their support of her and Tom. It is a great learning lesson for Scout.

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