In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what good does Tom Robinson do? 

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what good does Tom Robinson do?

 

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson is an all-around good guy. He is a faithful husband and father, a good worker and neighbor, and is respectful and well-mannered under the worst conditions. In Chapter Nine, when Scout finds out that her father will defend Tom in court, he explains to her that Tom is a member of Calpurnia's church and they are "clean-living folks" (75). That means that Tom and his family work for what they get and they are morally upstanding people. Because Tom is such a good-natured man, he is willing to help out a neighbor whenever he can. For example, each time Mayella Ewell asks him into her yard to do a simple chore for her, Tom does it with respect and doesn't demand anything from her for it. Tom's employer, Link Deas, publicly announces in court about what good he does:

"I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy's worked for me eight years an' I ain't had a speck o'trouble outa him. Not a speck" (195).

The fact that Tom doesn't make trouble is how he "does good," too. Even when the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Gilmer, condescendingly speaks to Tom, he always responds with "Yes, sir" or "No, sir." He also doesn't trample over his accuser's namesake when Mr. Gilmer asks if he is calling Mayella a liar. Tom merely says, "I don't say she's lyin', Mr. Gilmer, I say she's mistaken in her mind" (197). Being polite under such circumstances is always a good thing, too. Beyond everything, he is a good example of a mockingbird. He never hurts or pesters anyone.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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