What does Atticus give as the reason why Tom Robinson attempted to escape from prison?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus said that Tom Robinson attempted to escape because he wanted to take matters into his own hands, and was tired of white men deciding his fate for him.

Tom Robinson’s escape is one of the saddest parts of the book.  We are rooting for Tom throughout, and saddened when he is convicted.  It is obvious he could not have committed the crime he was accused of, because he is physically incapable of attacking Mayellla Ewell in accordance with her injuries.  We know that racism is the reason he lost the trial.

Atticus explains why Tom ran for the fence in chapter 24.

“We had such a good chance,” he said. “I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance. I guess Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own. Ready, Cal?” (chapter 24)

Tom made his own choice.  He wanted to end his life on his own terms, because he had no other way.  Tom has faced a life of racism, and does not want to face white men making decisions for him anymore.  He took the decision away from them.  It was really the only power he had.


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