what does Atticus say is the worst thing you can do? And the crime Mayella feels guilty about?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! In 'To Kill A Mockingbird,'  Atticus tells Jem and Scout that the worse thing a Caucasian man can do is to cheat an African-American man.

“Atticus says cheatin‘ a colored man is ten times worse than cheatin’ a white man,” I muttered. “Says it’s the worst thing you can do.”

Atticus tells the children that the one place a man ought 'to be able to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow;' yet, this seldom happens because 'people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.' He goes on to explain that whenever a Caucasian man takes unfair advantage, ' no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.'

During the trial, Mayella knows that she is accusing an innocent man. This is likely the crime she feels guilty about. When Atticus asks Tom Robinson to stand, everyone can see that his left arm is 'fully twelve inches shorter than his right,' due to an injury when he was a boy. It is obvious that Tom Robinson couldn't have been the one who abused and raped Mayella in the way she described. It is painfully apparent that Mayella is lying. It would not be far from the truth to speculate that she is furious and terrified lest her lie be discovered. Most people in Maycomb know that Tom Ewell regularly beats his daughter, and that she is afraid of him. Also, it would have caused a scandal if there was any indication that Mayella, a Caucasian woman, was in any way attracted to Tom Robinson, an African-American man. It was Tom Robinson who testified that Mayella kissed him and hugged him about the waist. His testimony is damning.

“She reached up an‘ kissed me ’side of th‘ face. She says she never kissed a grown man before an’ she might as well kiss a nigger. She says what her papa do to her don’t count. She says, ‘Kiss me back, nigger.'

Thanks for the question.

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