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In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom shows fear several times throughout the novel. The first time we see Tom’s fear is when Mayella Ewell keeps stopping him on his way home from work with silly requests and conversations. During the story, Tom chops up wood and does other household chores for Mayella out of the kindness of his heart. When Mayella asks Tom to come in the house and help her get a box off the top of a large dresser, he is especially nervous and afraid. Tom knows that it is not “proper” for him as a black man to be alone with Mayella, a white woman. He is risking his life by helping her. He tries to get out of it, but Mayella insists on luring Tom into the house where she sexually attacks him. It is then that Tom gets scared and runs out of the house. As you know, the incident is seen by Bob Ewell, and Tom is later arrested for rape.
Another time Tom is scared is when he testifies in his defense against the rape allegations. Tom knows that he has to be careful in what he says because he risks appearing “better” than Bob and Mayella Ewell. He knows he has to choose his words carefully as to not be disrespectful and seem “uppity”. His testimony shows his fear of conviction and his fear to not disrespect whites in the community.
When Tom tries to escape from prison, he is showing fear of the system in which he has been convicted. Personally, I don’t know if Tom really tried to escape or was shot by the guards because of his conviction and offense. However, Tom knows how hard life will be as a black man in the prison, and he feels he has no other alternative but to escape to save his own life.
Most of Tom’s fears are centered on his experiences with Jim Crow era expectations dictated by the white community. He is marginalized as a black man and had to learn at an early age how to navigate white society in order to survive.
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