In To Kill a Mockingbird, what might be the reason for Mayella's crying in court?

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like her father, Mayella is ignorant, poor, and hostile on the witness stand. Like her father, she lies under oath without hesitation. However, there are some significant differences between them. There is still some softness in Mayella. She cares for the little children at home and tries to bring some beauty to her surroundings. (She planted flowers and watered them every day.) Unlike Bob Ewell, Mayella is not unaware of the squalor in which she lives. She longs for more than she has, unlike her father who is content with his miserable life of drunken laziness.

At Tom's trial, Atticus questions Mayella on the stand, establishing that her story is a lie, tripping her up relentlessly in her false testimony. Finally, Atticus pins her down: "What did your father see in the window, the crime of rape or the best defense to it . . . .[d]idn't Bob Ewell beat you up?" Having to ask the question sickens him; Mayella reacts with terror and fury, lashing out at Atticus and the jury, as well. It is at this point she bursts into tears. The truth that Atticus has revealed to everyone in the courtroom causes Mayella more shame than she can bear.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mayella is what I call 'the unfortunate circumstance', she is her father's child but she is also the product of her father's ignorance and hypocrisy. The seeds of Mayella's acusations against Tom Robinson are rooted in her confusion between the fear of her father and Tom's kindness. For a white woman, Mayella was taught to fear the black man and feel safe with her father. As for Mayella crying in court, Lee wanted the reader to witness the realization of truth and feeling the weight being lifted off her shoulders. Powerful....very powerful.

jlmccarthy | Student

Mayella, is different than her father. Although she is ignorant, she has a good heart. She only wanted Tom to come help her for his company and he because he was kind to her. Her father on the other hand can't be characterize as ignorant, because he is an alcoholic, he abuses and neglects his children. They are filthy, and disgusting, their daily meal comes from the dump and what is not eaten, is dumped back into their yard. Mr. Ewell knowingly and willingly drinks their money, from the welfare office, away.

The only beautiful thing about the Ewell's is the flowers that Mayella has planted and kept in jars at the edge of the fence. She longs for something better than her life at home.

She cries on the stand because she knows she is lying, but if she tells the truth her father will beat her again and possibly kill her for proving him to be the liar.

zumba96 | Student

Mayella is different from her father because she actually showcases some form of beauty and likes to take care of the flower that is planted. She starts crying because when Atticus pins her down in front of the whole court, she understands that everyone has found out and that is humiliating to her. She also has no choice, but to lie because if she tells the truth, her father will most likely beat her up. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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