How well does Mr. Gilmer prove Tom's guilt in the eyes of the reader and in the eyes of the jury in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To the reader, Mr. Gilmer does not prove Tom’s guilt at all.  We know that, as Atticus said, no evidence was presented that Robinson raped Mayella.  Yet Mr. Gilmer does convince the jury that Tom Robinson is an uppity black boy who doesn’t know his place, and that is why they convict him.

Most readers who are not racist will assume that the jury will acquit Tom Robinson once they learn that he is crippled and could not have physically committed the crime.

"The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. (ch 20)

Mr. Gilmer, on the other hand, does establish one case.  Tom Robinson makes the fatal error when he says he felt sorry for Mayella.

The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But the damage was done. Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson's answer. Mr. Gilmer paused a long time to let it sink in. (ch 20)

This is really the only evidence Mr. Gilmer needed to present to the jury.  It does not matter that Robinson was innocent of rape or that the rape never happened.  They convict Tom Robinson of feeling sorry for a white woman.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, Mr. Gilmer does not present any sufficient evidence to prove that Tom Robinson was guilty in the eyes of the readers. Mr. Gilmer simply questions Tom and disrespects him while Tom is on the witness stand. Mr. Gilmer relies on the prejudice throughout the community to convince the jury that Tom Robinson is guilty. When Tom Robinson mentions that he felt sorry for Mayella Ewell, Mr. Gilmer uses Tom's comment against him. Mr. Gilmer repeats Tom's statement and proceeds to say that Tom is accusing Mayella of lying. Tom understands his mistake and refuses to admit that Mayella was lying because it would be considered taboo for a black man to oppose a white woman directly. Unfortunately, Mr. Gilmer is able to play off of the jury's prejudice and prove that Tom is guilty. However, one juror is not convinced and argues for an acquittal. Harper Lee makes it plainly obvious that Tom Robinson is innocent to illuminate the harms associated with prejudice.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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