What do you think of the idea that Tom's actions, and his death, were "typical"?
Why might the white community in Maycomb think this way?Why might the white community in Maycomb think this way?
The assumption that black men are all uneducated individuals who rape and beat up white women is ridiculous. It is not typical, since most rapists and serial killers have been proven to be middle-aged white men with education. However, in the time this book was written, some of it was true. Black people were not allowed extensive education as it "taught" them to be unsatisfied with their lot in life and would give them the desire to have more. This is the very reason why slaves in the south were not taught to read overall.
Tom is a large, muscular black man. It does not matter to the community that he is handsome, honorable, compassionate, and hard-working. They see him as the culprit simply because Mayella, a white woman, said he was guilty of this heinous crime. In those days, that was all it took: a white person accusing a black person sentenced that black person even before they entered the courtroom...if the courtroom was even entered.
His death was considered typical for these reasons as well. Since black people were not considered equals to white people, it doesn't suprise anyone that he is shot in the back like a common dog. Only those people--both black and white--who have moral consciences object to this death. The rest seem satisfied to say, "Well, he must have been guilty since he was running for the fence. Serves him right."
Ask your grandparents...it was a different time.
It was by no means typical of contemporary society, but a hundred years ago, in the South, it was not only typical, it was tragic. If a black man was accused of a crime by a white woman, there was a good chance that that man would never see the light of day ever again.
Tom's death was not typical--for contemporary society. But 100 years ago, it might have been, that a black man who was accused of a crime by a white woman would not likey see the light of day ever again, though it would most certainly be a tragedy.