Appearrances vs Reality theme in To Kill a Mockingbird: Dolphus, Tom and Boo.I'm writing an essay about the theme appearances vs reality in this novel. My 3 characters to be analyzed are Dolphus...

Appearrances vs Reality theme in To Kill a Mockingbird: Dolphus, Tom and Boo.

I'm writing an essay about the theme appearances vs reality in this novel. My 3 characters to be analyzed are Dolphus Raymond, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley. 
While I have ideas for dolphus and some for boo, I am struggling with the Tom Robinson paragraph.
How is he misunderstood, and what are the events which reveal his true side? 
Also, any other tips for my essay would be great!


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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With the 1930s South as the setting of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is stereotyped as just a poor black man. [Researching the social climate of the 1930s in the South will be helpful.]

  •  He is at the lowest level on the social stratum.  
  • No attempts to know Tom Robinson are made.  When Mr. Deas wants to attest for Tom's character, he is told by Judge Taylor to be quiet.  Since, he spoke out in a courtroom, Judge Taylor's admonishment is appropriate, however, curiously, no one is called to the stand by Atticus.
  • The most revealing characterization of Tom occurs when he is interrogated by Atticus.  In his testimony, Tom exhibits very polite behavior, yet, he is not subservient or he would have not said that he felt sorry for Mayella.  For most blacks who were subservient had a deep resentment of white people. and were not concerned with the feelings of those who made them feel subjugated.  But Tom makes the comment to Atticus,

..she seemed to try more'n the rest of 'em--

Even Scout makes a comment about him: "Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her....It occurred to me that Tom Robins's manners were as good as Atticus's. 

  • Tom has integrity and is not afraid to tell the truth.  When asked why he ran after Bob Ewell came home, Tom replies to the badgering Mr. Gilmer,

'No, suh, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now...scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do.'

  • When asked if he is being impudent, Tom still stands up for himself,  "No suh, I didn't go to be."





missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, the greatest moment that captures your idea about Tom Robinson has to be when at the end of 18 Atticus asks him to stand. It is revealed that his left arm is a full 12 inches shorter than his right.

Every white person in that courtroom knew at that moment Tom was not completely whole. Before that moment, they only saw him as a black man. Upon the sight of his arm, after Atticus proved that the man who hurt Mayella had to have led EXCLUSIVELY with his left, the reality of the case is revealed and everyone knows it.

Use the last couple of paragraphs of 18 to help you pick some good quotes and imagine how that audience might have felt!

I think when the white folks hear the verdict, they know that race is what determined it. They knew Tom was human and deserved a different verdict.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom was accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell. One would expect someone who would do such a thing to have a certain look about him. Although Tom is a rather large man, he has a crippled arm and is very humble and soft-spoken. (It is probably no accident that Harper Lee gave her character the name "Tom," since an "Uncle Tom" is considered an African-American who subjugates himself before a white man. Tom certainly fits this description, since it was the safest way for a black man to avoid trouble at this time in the Deep South.) He is happily married with children, and we find out during his testimony that he feels sorry for Mayella and only stops by to help her because she seems to have no one else to do so.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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