In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, what two major points did Atticus score in his favor during Heck Tate's testimony?  

In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, what two major points did Atticus score in his favor during Heck Tate's testimony?



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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus gets Sheriff Tate to admit that no one called a doctor for Mayella and that the injuries were on the right side of her face.

Heck Tate is the first witness the Finch children see testify in the Tom Robinson case.  He is the sheriff of Maycomb county.  He testifies because he was called to the scene when Mayella Ewell was reported raped.  Mr. Gilmer, the prosecutor, has him review the scene.  He was called by Bob Ewell, and found Mayella Ewella injured in the middle of the floor of her house. 

Atticus, Tom Robinson’s defense attorney, cross-examines Heck Tate to ask him about Mayella’s injuries.  The first question he asks him is about the doctor.  If a girl is raped, you would expect a doctor to be called.  None has been mentioned, so Atticus asks.

Didn’t call a doctor?”

“No sir,” repeated Mr. Tate.

“Why not?” There was an edge to Atticus’s voice.

“Well I can tell you why I didn’t. It wasn’t necessary, Mr. Finch. She was mighty banged up. Something sho‘ happened, it was obvious.” (Ch. 17)

Judge Taylor intervenes, telling Atticus to stop asking the question because Sheriff Tate has answered it three times.  No one called for a doctor.  It is pretty strange.  Atticus made sure the jury realized it.  If Mayella was really raped, a doctor should have been called for her.

Atticus also makes a big deal about the side of her face on which Mayella’s injuries are located.

“Wait a minute, Sheriff,” said Atticus. “Was it her left facing you or her left looking the same way you were?”

Mr. Tate said, “Oh yes, that’d make it her right. It was her right eye, Mr. Finch. I remember now, she was bunged up on that side of her face…” (Ch. 17)

Tom Robinson reacts to Atticus harping on the side of Mayella’s face where the injuries are located.  This will be important later, because Atticus will try to use it to prove that Tom Robinson did not hit Mayella, because his left arm is useless, and that no rape occurred, because no one went for a doctor.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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