How does the writer engage our sympathy for Tom Robinson in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For one thing, Tom is described as a beautiful person--inside and out.  Much as we may not like to admit it, pretty people evoke favorable responses.  In addition, Tom's left arm was injured in a farming accident, so he isn't able to use it as well as his right arm.  Further, Tom is kind-hearted.  He stops to help Mayella because he realizes that her life is hard and he feels sorry for her.  He doesn't have to do this, and he is certainly aware of the risk he is taking by doing this, but he is willing to do this for the good of humankind and for a damsel in distress.  He is the true knight in the story.  Of course, since he is black, he is at even greater risk in this story when the prejudice against black people is high.  So, adding on to his other fabulous characteristics, we have the injustice served to him on a silver platter in the courtroom.  Even the children notice that this sentence is not fair since they proved without a shadow of a doubt that the person who beat Mayella Ewell so savagely had to use his left hand...something Tom obviously couldn't have done.  However, it is a he said-she said story between a black man and a white man, and the white man gets the positive outcome because of his skin color.  Tom gets the shaft, and everyone knows it. Our feelings of empathy for Tom increase when we learn that he attempted to escape the prison one day before Atticus could get him set free, and in his escape attempt he is shot dead.  We feel for his wife and children, for Tom, and for all they've lost senselessly.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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