How did the trial of Tom Robinson negatively affect the characters in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird? (Finches, blacks, whites)I am having trouble finding evidence that Tom Robinsons trial...

How did the trial of Tom Robinson negatively affect the characters in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird? (Finches, blacks, whites)

I am having trouble finding evidence that Tom Robinsons trial negatively affected the black and white community. I can understand how it negatively affects the Finches, however I have had no luck finding specific evidence to explain how the black and white community are affected. Please help! Specific quotations to back up evidence would be fantastic!

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The black community was always treated badly, of course.  The trial was kind of another slap in the face to them.  They are treated like they don't matter all of the time, but at the trial it was like pouring salt into a wound.  The jury took the word of a white woman who was clearly lying over a black man because Tom Robinson said he felt sorry for her, which was the real sin.

"You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?" Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling.

The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But the damage was done. Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson's answer. (ch 19)

Mr. Gilmer also added insult to injury by repeatedly calling Tom “boy” to belittle him.

When Atticus walked out of the courtroom, the blacks in the balcony stood in respect.  They left food on his doorstep.  They realized that even though he didn’t win, he tried his best.  They were grateful.

The people were also all understandably saddened by Tom’s death.  The black community was just that—a community. They took up a collection in church for Tom’s wife.  They knew he was innocent, and the injustice of it hurt.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee based her trial of Tom Robinson on the true case of The Scottsboro Boys, who were tried for the alledged rape of two white women. This trial, too, was a travesty as little evidence for the defense was heard and several of the African-Americans males were tried together. Like this real trial, the Tom Robinson trial is also a travesty of justice.

Whereas many in the Maycomb community are aware of segregations, their personal lives are not affected by particulars of this division.  For instance, the children of Atticus attend Calpurnia's church and only then realize that the congregation is too poor to have prayer books; moreover, many cannot read, anyway.  Jem and Scout are brought into another world when they attend the trial, a world of sordid actions and thoughts.  Indeed, as one post already states, they lose their innocence.  On the other hand, others gain wisdom as Mr. Underwood rises to decry in his paper the terrible injustice dealt Tom Robinson, and Jem learns of the evil that men do.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lost innocence of the children--Jem, Scout and Dill--was a direct result of being witness to the trial. They witnessed a jury that refused to accept facts, instead allowing its racial prejudice to decide Tom's fate. Atticus lost friends in Maycomb, if not his reputation; Bob's hatred became even more diverse; and even Boo Radley was forced to retreat from his imposed solitude, risking his life to save the children. 

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before the trial takes place, Jem and Scout are harassed at school. The other kids fling insults at them, which Scout does not at first understand. The name calling and taunting infuriate her and hurt her pride and cause some painful confusion.

This is one negative effect of the trial, though Scout and Jem both manage to summon the moral strength they need to get through the situation. 

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The negative affects of the trial on the community depend upon one's point-of-view. Some characters may "believe" that the trail of Tom showed that an African American could be a good person. While they would be the last to admit this, it would be a negative aspect arising within a white community given other African Americans could be regarded in a new, and more positive, light. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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