Describe the "incident," according to Mayella's testimony in the trial of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mayella gives a conflicting testimony in chapter 18 when she takes the witness stand. When Mr. Gilmer initially asks her to recall the events that took place on the evening of November 21st, Mayella says that she originally asked Tom Robinson to help bust up an old chiffarobe in exchange for a nickel. When she went into her home to retrieve the nickel, Tom Robinson attacked her from behind, grabbed her around the neck, and threw her to the ground. Once Mayella was on the ground, she claims that Tom "took advantage" of her. She says that she screamed as loud as she could but doesn't remember that well. However, Mayella does remember her father standing over her asking who harmed her before she fainted.

Atticus then cross-examines Mayella, and she gives a conflicting testimony. After Atticus asks Mayella if she remembers Tom Robinson beating her in the face, Mayella says, "No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me" (188). Atticus then begins to ask Mayella a number of questions regarding her struggle with Tom Robinson and she continues to fabricate her story. Mayella once again contradicts her testimony by saying she remembers Tom punching her as she ducked. Mayella then realizes that she cannot answer any of Atticus's other questions and remains silent on the witness stand. Her conflicting testimony reveals that she fabricated her entire story and is lying about being assaulted and raped by Tom Robinson.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to Mayella, in her own words, this is what happened:

“I said come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you. He coulda done it easy enough, he could. So he come in the yard an‘ I went in the house to get him the nickel and I turned around an ’fore I knew it he was on me. Just run up behind me, he did. He got me round the neck, cussin‘ me an’ sayin‘ dirt—I fought’n’hollered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin an‘ agin—”

So essentially, she claims that Tom was asked to come over to break a piece of furniture into firewood. Then, she claims he followed her into the house in a very sneaky way and got "on her". She claims that he beat her, grabbed her around the neck, cussed at her and fought with her. She claims that she tried to get him off but he just kept hitting and hitting her.

Chapter 19 will give you the opportunity to hear the story from Tom's point of view. It will be obviously much different.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question