In "To Kill a Mockingbird," what is the case about and is Tom guilty?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mayella Ewell and her father accused Tom of raping and beating Mayella to cover up the fact that she (a white woman) attempted to seduce Tom (a black man) and was caught by her father.  Mayella was probably trying to get out of her horrible homelife since her father was more intimate with Mayella than he should have been.  Mr. Ewell beat Mayella for trying to seduce Tom, and then he decided to accuse Tom of the crime.  Tom was a beautiful man--inside and out--his heart was in the right place when he stopped to help Mayella around the house since it looked like to him she didn't anyone to help her (her father wasn't ever around and there were many other children in her care as well as household duties).  Atticus proved it couldn't have been Tom who beat Mayella since by the markings and the injuries, a left handed man had done the deed.  Tom's left hand had been rendered useless after an accident in his childhood with farm machinery.

However, since the trial was held in a time when racial prejudice was far greater than it is today, a white man's word against a black man's word meant complete destruction for the black man.  No matter how trashy everyone in town knew the Ewells to be, they were white.  Therefore, Tom Robinson was not acquited as he should have been according to the evidence and the fact that his testimony rang truer than the Ewells' testimony.

Tom committed suicide by attempting to escape from prison and the guards shot him.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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