In To Kill a Mockingbird, what moral dilemma is Scout facing during the trial, based on the different accounts of Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson?Based on what atticus taught her, what is the moral...

In To Kill a Mockingbird, what moral dilemma is Scout facing during the trial, based on the different accounts of Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson?

Based on what atticus taught her, what is the moral dilemma of looking at the two condradicting accounts of what happened between Tom Robinson and Mayella?

1 Answer | Add Yours

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

As Atticus reminds the jury during his summation, the prevailing attitude among white people in the South during the 1930s is that there is an

"... evil assumption--that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women..."

Additionally, he knows that no jury could be expected to take a black man's word over the word of a white man. Atticus does not believe this, of course, and he has not taught his children in this manner. However, as a young child who has had limited contact with black people, Scout has to decide between the contradicting testimony of the pitiful, white Mayella Ewell and the accused black rapist, Tom Robinson. Scout does not fully understand the method of Atticus's questioning of Mayella, but she does see that if Mayella

... hadn't been so poor and ignorant, Judge Taylor would have put her under the jail for the contempt she had shown everybody in the courtroom.

Scout's first observation of Tom is that he is big and strong and, apparently, quite physically capable of committing the acts of which he is accused.

He could have easily done it.

However, she has not forgotten Atticus's opinion that the Ewells have been "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations," nor the disgraceful stories she has heard about Bob Ewell. It is only when she sees that Tom has a crippled left arm--and that Atticus has already demonstrated that Mayella's injuries must have been caused by a left-handed man--that she recognizes that Tom must be an innocent man.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,991 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question