How does Harper Lee show that the treatment of Tom Robinson is cruel and unfair in To Kill a Mockingbird? Look particularly at how he is treated by Bob Ewell and Atticus Finch.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like the fact that author Harper Lee never actually spells out the fact that Tom is innocent of the crimes of which he is accused. The reader is allowed to judge for himself/herself, but it becomes obvious to nearly every reader that Tom is innocent and that the Ewells are liars. Tom's treatment must seem extremely harsh to readers in the 21st century who were not alive 50 years ago when the remnants of the Tom Crow laws were still alive in the South. The fact that Tom is charged with a capital offense solely on the word of a family member of the victim without the benefit of other eyewitnesses or medical evidence of rape would produce public outrage today; few prosecutors would bring charges with such flimsy evidence. Tom is charged because he is black, Mayella Ewell is white, and because the jury

"... couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'..."  (Chapter 9)

since in 1935 Alabama, a white man's word is always taken over the word of a black man. But this is not the cruelest blow against Tom. He is forced to face the possibility of a lynching and the indignity of being called "nigger" by both Bob and Mayella Ewell. Even the prosecutor, Horace Gilmer, repeatedly refers to Tom as "boy." Tom's wife, Helen, is denied work by the white community, who ostracize Tom's whole family. In the end, Tom is little more than a human target for the prison guards, who riddle his body with 23 bullet holes after Tom tries to escape.

dolphindefender | Student

Atticus isn't cruel towards Tom Robinson...he is the exact opposite of the Ewells.

The Ewells use the common belief that "all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women" to lure the jury to vote "guilty".

Atticus speaks outagainstthis belief and tries to make the jury understand what the Ewells are doing, and that all men are capable of good and evil.

mahamed90 | Student

Thanks for the answer, but how is Atticus cruel?

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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