In contrast to the Ewells, what kind of person is Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom is an honest, God-fearing, hard-working family man while Bob Ewell is a dishonest, shiftless, jobless man who drinks up his welfare check and rarely provides for his family. Bob really can't be compared with anyone else in the novel: His family has been the "disgrace of Maycomb County for three generations," and one can only wonder what his father and grandfather must have been like. Bob stands alone as the trashiest man in town, and it is fitting that he and his family live adjacent to the dump. Bob not only causes Tom's death by the false accusations he and Mayella make against Tom, but he is willing to murder Jem and Scout to settle the score with Atticus.

Tom, meanwhile, has had only one minor run-in with the law. Despite his crippled arm, he works hard for Link Deas, who declares in court that

"That boy's worked for me eight years an' I ain't had a speck o'trouble outa him. Not a speck."

He is a member of Calpurnia's congregation at First Purchase Church, and his friends there think enough of him to take up a collection to help his wife while Tom is in jail. Scout is impressed with Tom, claiming that his "manners were as good as Atticus's."

I found myself believing him... He seemed to be a respectable Negro...

Atticus describes Tom as

"... a quiet, respectable humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to 'feel sorry' for a white woman...

It is the color of Tom's skin that works against him with the jury, who Atticus knew beforehand would not take Tom's word over that of Bob Ewell's. When compared with Bob, Tom is a finer man in every respect, but most of the people in Maycomb were unwilling to look past Tom's black skin.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Ewells are despicable, malevolent individuals, who cause others harm throughout their community and are generally regarded as nefarious citizens. Bob Ewell is a notorious alcoholic, who is unemployed and sexually abuses his oldest daughter, Mayella. Mayella as well as Bob's other children are also ignorant, immoral individuals, who behave like their disrespectful, unsuccessful father. Overall, the Ewells have a terrible reputation throughout Maycomb and are responsible for Tom Robinson's wrongful conviction.

In contrast, Tom Robinson has a positive reputation throughout the community and is portrayed as an innocent, honest, compassionate person. When Scout asks her father about Tom, he tells her,

"He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, and Cal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks." (Lee, 77)

Tom also goes out of his way to help Mayella complete various chores out of the kindness of his heart and refuses to accept payment from her. Tom Robinson is depicted as a symbolic mockingbird throughout the novel because he only brings joy to those around him. Unfortunately, Tom becomes a victim of racial injustice after he is wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell. While the Ewells use their white privilege to harm Tom, Tom is vulnerable because he is black and cannot defend himself.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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