Why did Atticus keep asking Mr. Tate and Mr. Ewell if they called a doctor in To Kill a Mockingbird chapter 17?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus asks whether or not Mayella saw a doctor to stress the fact that her father beat her so they knew she did not need one.

Tom Robinson is being tried for the rape of Mayella Ewell.  Normally in a rape case the victim would see a doctor.  Atticus asks Heck Tate, the sheriff, if he called for a doctor.

"Well I can tell you why I didn't. It wasn't necessary, Mr. Finch.

She was mighty banged up. Something sho' happened, it was obvious."

"But you didn't call a doctor? While you were there did anyone send for one, fetch one, carry her to one?" (ch 17)

During his cross-examination, Atticus asks over and over again if Mayella saw a doctor.  He asks the question so often that the judge scolds him and tells him to move on.

Atticus also asks Bob Ewell why no one ran for a doctor, since "folks were doing a lot of running that night."  He asks if Ewell was concerned about her condition.  Ewell thinks about it and says that calling a doctor would cost five dollars, and he had never called one in his life.

The questions about the doctor are meant to convince the jury that everyone knew Mayella was not raped.  Her injuries were from her father hitting her, not from Tom Robinson attacking her.  There was no reason to go for a doctor, because there was no rape.


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