How does Tom Robinson show courage in To Kill a Mockingbird?

How does Tom Robinson show courage in To Kill a Mockingbird?


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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson shows courage on the witness stand.  He tells about the events that happened with Mayella Ewell, even though he is under immense scrutiny by the jury and court observers.  His hesitation shows how he needs to summon up the courage to speak in defense of himself.  He frequently swallows before speaking, which also shows his hesitation.

He tells of many instances when he had helped Mayella with small chores and tasks around the broken down Ewell house.  Mr. Gilmer presses Tom for more information.  He asks Tom why he would be so willing to help Mayella without getting paid.  Tom explains that he was trying to help.  Mr. Gilmer asks for more and Tom replies:

"Yes, suh.  I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n the rest of--" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 21)

 Mr. Gilmer is quick to interrupt.  It is unheard of in Maycomb for a black man to pity a white woman.  Tom Robinson speaks with honesty.  He does not leave out parts of the truth to make himself look better.  This takes courage on his part.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Tom Robinson is a relatively meek and silent character throughout the novel, he displays courage in several different ways. When Tom gets his chance to testify in court, he tells the truth about how Mayella Ewell attempted to seduce him. He also admits that he felt sorry for Mayella because nobody seemed to care about her. Tom displays courage by testifying that a white woman made advances towards him which was a very controversial claim at the time. Tom is not intimidated by the racist jury and boldly tells the truth during his testimony. Tom also shows courage by attempting to escape from the Enfield Prison Farm. He decides to take his fate into his own hands and does not stop when the prison guards command him to halt. As Atticus mentions, Tom was sick of white people's chances and decided to personally take action. Tom courageously stands up for himself in front of the prejudiced jury and attempts to escape from Enfield Prison Farm on his own. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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