To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Who killed Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Expert Answers info

Concepcion Cobbs eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write136 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

To Kill a Mockingbird is a famous novel that was written by Harper Lee. Its driving force is the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman. Despite his innocence, Robinson is sentenced to jail. The novel takes place in the Deep South in the 1930s. Robinson had no real chance of beating the charge, even though Atticus Finch provided him with an excellent defense.

In chapter 24, we learn that Tom Robinson has died. He was shot in prison by a group of guards after attempting to escape. They said it happened during an exercise period. When Tom tried climbing the fence, the guards shot in the air to stop him. When that didn't work, they killed him. He died with seventeen bullet holes in his body. Lee leaves it up to our imagination as to whether this is what actually happened or if a group of white guards simply took the judicial process into their own hands.

In the literal sense, it's very clear who killed Tom Robinson—a group of prison guards. However, there are arguments to be made that it's not really the group of guards who killed Tom, nor was it the jury who sentenced him to prison. You could make the argument that it was Mayella Ewell who killed Tom. She's the one who made up the rape charge that he had no chance of ever beating. Or, you could even argue that it was her father, Bob Ewell, who killed Tom. He's the one who abused Mayella. He made her feel like she had no power, so she sought it by asking Tom to engage in a relationship with her.

I think all of these causes for Tom's death are partial truths. What really killed Tom is the society he lived in. It's doubtful he would have been sent to jail if he were a white man. If the guards staged his death, then they probably wouldn't have had the same desire to kill him if Tom were a white man. There are dozens of aspects of society that contributed to Tom's death. Although it was the guards who pulled the trigger, Tom Robinson was a victim of societal racism.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,090 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

In Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson becomes the unfortunate victim of racial injustice after he is wrongly convicted by an all-white jury of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell. Following Tom's wrongful conviction, he is sent to Enfield Prison Farm, which is located seventy miles away in Chester County. Despite his conviction, Atticus has faith that they can win their appeal and looks forward to defending Tom again in a court of law. Tragically, Tom Robinson is not as optimistic as Atticus and has completely lost all faith in the justice system.

In chapter 24, Atticus interrupts Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle and calls his sister, Cal, and Miss Maudie into the kitchen to inform them of Tom's tragic death. Atticus says that Tom attempted to escape from the Enfield Prison Farm during an exercise period and tried climbing the fence. The prison guards reacted by shooting Tom seventeen times while he was attempting to escape. After Atticus informs the ladies of Tom's death, he takes Cal with him to break the news to Helen Robinson. In chapter 25, Scout reiterates Dill's story of Atticus informing Helen Robinson of her husband's death and elaborates on Mr. Underwood's editorial in The Maycomb Tribune regarding Tom's death. Mr. Underwood likens Tom's death to the "senseless slaughter of songbirds," which contributes to Tom's portrayal as a symbolic...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1,236 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write15,968 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

schulzie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write572 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

godson02 | Student

After Atticus was convicted for raping Mayella, which some people believe he did not do, though we were not told in the book. So he had to go through the trial in which Atticus was his lawyer he was later sentenced to jail for that crime and he was killed in the jail for the crime. Atticus was sad though later on in the book, we were told Atticus came back with the news that tom Robinson was shot 17 times for trying to escape from the prison so according to your question we can say he was shot by the prison guards or other prison officers shot him up to seventeen times which is so much, atticus was devastated by the news.