What are the 3 different views of Tom Robinson's trial and its outcome as seen by Atticus, the children, and townspeople?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Among the residents of the town of Maycomb, Alabama, there are differing views of the trial of Tom Robinson and its outcome, and it is a mistake to generalize about them in what may be merely undocumented opinion.  While it is true that there are those who hold the "conventional wisdom" that blacks should be kept in their "place," such as Mrs. Dubose who villifies Atticus as a "n--lover," and Mrs. Merriweather and Miss Caroline who believe an example should be made of Tom to "keep them in their place," the text of To Kill a Mockingbird clearly shows that are others who do not feel this way: 

  • One such person is Dolphus Raymond, who lives in the black section of town is sympathetic to blacks.  It is he who comforts Dill when he exits the courtroom, sick to his stomach. About Dill, Mr. Raymond tells Scout,

"Things haven't caught up with that one's instinct yet....Maybe things'll strike him as being--not quite right [when he gets older], say, but he won't cry, not when he gets a few years on him."

"Cry about what, Mr. Raymond?"....

"Cry about the simple hell people give other people....Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too."

  • Then, there is Mr. Underwood, who risks his job to write a lengthy piece in the newspaper condemning the injustice of the Tom Robinson trial.  It was he, too, who held a shotgun ready to defend Atticus when the mob came to the jail, despite his reputation of being known to "despise" black people.  Similarly, Link Dees feels that Tom is treated unjustly as he offers supportive words on Tom's behalf at the trial. 
  • Atticus's sister, Alexandra, does not approve of Atticus's defense of Tom in the beginning, but later she is upset at the brutal injustice done to poor Tom Robinson who, in despair, takes his own life.
  • Certainly, Miss Maudie Atkinson, who tells the children "it is a sin to kill a mockingbird," strongly approves of Atticus Finch's defense of Tom Robinson, as well.  For, after the trial she tells the children that their father did a great service to the town. When she talks with Aunt Alexandra and tells her that the people in Maycomb pay Atticus the highest tribute by trusting him to do right, she states that these people are 

"...The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only...The handful of people in this town with background, that's who they are."


Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The town is, indeed, rather divided over this verdict.  Those who wallow in prejudice think Tom got what he deserved, of course.  The others, generally those we have met and know by name as outlined by mwestwood, are distraught by the injustice which has once again occured in their town.  (I would add Sherrif Heck Tate to the list, as he did what he could to protect Tom before the trial.)

The kids have a variety of reactions to the verdict.  Jem is visibly shaken by the injustice because he was mature enough to follow the actual arguments and understand the laws of reason have been violated. 

"'It ain't right, Atticus....  How could they do it, how could they?'" 

Dill understands less, but he has the emotional reaction already listed--he is hurt by the verdict and really can't explain why.  Scout's reaction is the least expressive of the three.  Virtually no commentary or emotion.  Make of that what you will.

Atticus is not surpirsed, but his hopefulness has been diminished.  He really thought this time maybe, just maybe...but no.  He reassures Jem as he is the most dejected, but he doesn't have much to say.  When his sister scolds him a bit, he says,

"'I'm not bitter, just tired.'" 

That says it all.  He has plans to appeal the case, but he knows the battle will be similar to the one he just fought, and he's tired. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, here are the three different views of the trial and a little bit about their significances:

  1. The townspeople generally agree with the result of the trial.  They feel that it is important that the blacks be kept in their place.  This comes out of their belief in the racist ideas of the day.
  2. The kids are shocked by the verdict.  They thought it was obvious that Robinson was innocent and they thought he would be acquitted.  This shows that they are naive about the racism that exists in Maycomb.
  3. Atticus is disheartened but not surprised.  It's clear that he expected this verdict.  This is because he is old enough to know that Maycomb is a racist society and because he does not accept these ideas the way most townspeople do.
Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question