In Chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what two major points did Atticus score in his favor during Heck Tate's testimony?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus begins his defense of Tom Robinson by questioning Sheriff Heck Tate before going to work on Bob Ewell. The prosecutor from Abbottsville, Mr. Gilmer, determines that Sheriff Tate was first informed of the rape of Mayella Ewell by her father. On cross examination, Atticus finds that the sheriff never requested a doctor to examine Mayella. Then, he questions Tate about which eye was "bunged up." After first answering that it was "her left," Atticus interrupts.

    "Wait a minute, Sheriff," said Atticus. "Was it her left facing you, or her left looking the same way you were?"
    Mr. Tate said, "Oh, yes, that'd make it her right. It was her right eye, Mr. Finch. I remember now, she was bunged up on that side of her face..."

Then, Atticus asked Sheriff Tate about Mayella's other injuries, discovering that

"There were definite finger marks on her gullet."|
    "All around her throat? At the back of her neck?"
    I'd say they were all around, Mr. Finch."

With that, Atticus ceased his questioning of Heck Tate. He had discovered that no doctor was called (so rape could not be varified); that she was bruised under her right eye; and that there were finger marks around her neck. Atticus would later insist that Tom Robinson could not have caused the bruising, since his left arm was disabled from a farm accident. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, Atticus's cross-examination of Heck Tate reveals several important aspects regarding the events that took place on November 21st. Atticus begins by asking Sheriff Tate if he called a doctor, and Tate testifies that he did not. Atticus then asks Sheriff Tate to describe Mayella's injuries. Sheriff Tate testifies that she was beaten around the head and her right eye was bruised. Tate also mentions that Mayella had finger marks encompassing her neck, which indicated that she was strangled. Atticus asks Sheriff Tate several times if it was Mayella's right side of her face that was beaten badly, and the sheriff testifies that it was. Atticus's cross-examination reveals that a doctor was not present to confirm that Mayella was actually raped, and Mayella's injuries were to the right side of her face. These two facts are significant to Atticus's case because Tom Robinson has a crippled left hand and could not have inflicted those injuries. Also, there is no evidence that proves Mayella was even raped because a doctor did not examine her after the attack. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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