How does Tom's testimony affect the people in the courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom's testimony causes pandemonium in the courthouse. During Atticus's questioning, Tom testifies that Mayella grabbed him around the waist and reached up to kiss him. According to Tom's testimony, Mayella claimed she had never kissed a grown man before, so reasoned she might as well kiss Tom. Tom's testimony regarding Mayella's words creates havoc in court:

She reached up an‘ kissed me ’side of th‘ face. She says she never kissed a grown man before an’ she might as well kiss a nigger. She says what her papa do to her don’t count. She says, ‘Kiss me back, nigger.’

Additionally, Tom maintains that, when Bob Ewell saw Mayella kissing Tom, he yelled, "you goddamn whore, I’ll kill ya." Tom's words shock the people in court because of what they suggest. Since there is a taboo against interracial relationships in Maycomb, Tom's testimony creates emotional pandemonium in court. As Atticus later says, "She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards." Also, Tom's account of Mayella's words suggest that her father may have been sexually abusing her. This is, in itself, devastating in its implications.

Later, when Mr. Gilmer questions Tom, Dill is reduced to tears. As only an innocent boy can, Dill confesses to Scout that Mr. Gilmer's tendency to sneer at Tom and address him as "boy" makes him sick. Surprisingly, Dill has an ally in Mr. Dolphus Raymond, who offers him a drink of coca-cola from his paper sack. In all, Tom's testimony causes strong emotional reactions from many of the observers in court.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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