In To Kill a Mockingbird, on what date did Tom Robinson allegedly rape Mayella Ewell?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson allegedly raped Mayella Ewell on November 21. He says what really happened was that she grabbed him and tried to kiss him, so he ran away.

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The date of Tom Robinson's alleged assault on Mayella Ewing was November 21, 1934. This detail is revealed when Sheriff Heck Tate testifies that Bob Ewell came to get him from his office, claiming that his daughter had been raped by a black man. When the sheriff went to the...

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The date of Tom Robinson's alleged assault on Mayella Ewing was November 21, 1934. This detail is revealed when Sheriff Heck Tate testifies that Bob Ewell came to get him from his office, claiming that his daughter had been raped by a black man. When the sheriff went to the house, he found Mayella "pretty well beat up," and the girl, when questioned, claimed that Tom Robinson had been responsible for her attack. She went on to identify him, and he was arrested. It is evident, mainly from the heat that Scout continuously references, that Tom's actual trial takes place in the following summer. This means that his family has had to endure extreme poverty—he cannot work, and his church raises some money to feed his family.

The very public nature of the incident and the delay between the incident and the trial also means that Jem and Scout have to listen to the comments from people around Maycomb who do not approve of Atticus's defense of an accused African American rapist. Mrs. Dubose, for example, says deliberately offensive things about Atticus to Jem (albeit partially due to her torment after stopping morphine use). Scout gets into a fight with her cousin Francis, who baits her with similar remarks at the family's Christmas gathering. Atticus and the children also face down a lynch mob outside the Maycomb jail shortly before the trial. Much of the book, in fact, transpires during the time between the incident and the actual trial itself.

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On the evening of November 21, Tom Robinson was falsely accused of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell. Since the trial takes place in July or August of 1935, one could surmise that Tom's alleged attack took place the previous year in 1934.

In chapter 17, Sheriff Tate takes the witness stand and is questioned by the prosecuting attorney Mr. Gilmer. Sheriff Tate testifies that on the night of November 21, Mr. Ewell summoned him to his house and claimed that Mayella was raped by Tom Robinson. Bob Ewell also testifies that Tom raped his daughter on the evening of November 21 and Mayella proceeds to offer a conflicting testimony of the events that transpired that night. According to Mayella, Tom snuck up behind her and threw her to the ground before raping her.

However, Atticus's line of questioning proves that Mayella is fabricating her entire story when she blatantly contradicts her statements and fails to answer several important questions. When Tom Robinson takes the witness stand, he tells the truth and testifies that Mayella made sexual advances towards him on the evening of November 21. Tom Robinson testifies that Mayella hugged his legs and attempted to kiss him before he ran out of the house. According to Tom, Bob Ewell witnessed his daughter kissing him and threatened to kill her. Although Atticus proves that Tom Robinson is innocent, Tom becomes the tragic victim of racial injustice and is wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell.

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The text is very specific that the alleged rape took place on November 21st of the year prior to the trial. We are not sure of the year, except that it was the mid-1930s.

Nobody disputes that Tom Robinson was in the Ewell home on the date in question. It is the events that occurred that are in conflict. Tom Robinson says he was there to fix a door that had come off it hinges. He said he did so, and the door worked properly. This accords with a November date, as it was probably cold in the house without a door that would close properly. Robinson then says that Mayella asked him to get a box down from the top of a chiffarobe. She had sent the children for ice cream, so he and Mayella were alone. She grabbed his legs when he was on the chair, and then tried to kiss him, at which point he ran away. The fact that Mayella had sent the other children for ice cream makes sense with the idea that it was she who wanted to be alone with Tom.

Mayella, however, testifies that she offered Robinson a nickel to break up the chiffarobe for her. She says she was going to get the money to pay him when he jumped on her and raped her.

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According to the testimony of Mayella Ewell and her father Bob, the alleged rape took place on November 21 the year before the trial. The date of this alleged act is mentioned several times in Chapter 17. First we hear it from Sheriff Heck Tate when he is being examined by Horace Gilmer, the prosecutor. When discussing the incident, Tate asks the sheriff

"Who called you?'
Mr. Tate said, "I was fetched by Bob, Mr. Bob Ewell yonder one night."
"What night, sir?" Mr. Tate said.
"It was the night of November 21st..."

Later in the chapter, when Bob Ewell is called to the witness stand, Mr. Gilmer specifically asks the witness about the events of the evening of November 21. Mr. Ewell testifies that it was shortly before sunset on that particular evening when he found Tom Robinson assaulting Mayella.

In the following chapter, Mayella Ewell is also asked to describe the events of the evening of November 21. She says it was on that evening that she asked Tom to chop up an old chifferobe for her and that's when he attacked her.

In Chapter 19, Tom Robinson testifies that he chopped up the chiffarobe for Mayella the previous spring, not in November. Atticus asks Tom what happened to him on the night of November 21. Tom testifies that Mayella attempted to kiss him. He says that he tried to leave at that point, but that was when Bob Ewell arrived.

Of course, it becomes clear from the testimony and the evidence that the alleged rape never occurred. Tom fled the scene when Bob Ewell arrived out of fear for his own safety, and Bob beat his daughter and blamed it on Tom.

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In chapter 17, Judge Taylor asks Mr. Ewell what happened on the night of November 21 during the year before the trial. Mr. Ewell testifies that around sundown on that day, he returned to his house and found Tom Robinson attacking and raping his daughter, Mayella. Later, when Mayella testifies, she is also asked what happened on the night of November 21, the day of the alleged rape. Tom Robinson testifies that on that same day, November 21, Mayella beckoned him inside her house and said she had saved money for a long time to send the children in her family away to get ice cream in town. She then hugged Tom Robinson and kissed him until he ran away. He claims that she had asked him to break up a "chiffarobe" [sic] on another day, but not on November 21—that was the day that she attempted to kiss him.

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In Harper Lee's novel To Kill a MockingbirdAtticus Finch is defending Tom Robinson in a court case. Tom has been accused of sexually assaulting Mayella Ewell, a matter made all the more grave by the fact that Tom is black and Mayella is white. At this time in Alabama, race relations were difficult, and if a white person accused a black person of violence, the black person was almost guaranteed to be found guilty and go to jail, even if the black person was innocent. 

On the night of November 21st, Robinson was invited by Mayella Ewell into her home, where she tried to hug and kiss him. When Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, saw this, he ran inside and beat Mayella while Robinson ran away. Later, Bob Ewell made up the story that Robinson had assaulted Mayella to protect her dignity as a white woman and cover up the fact that he beat his daughter.

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