In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Reverend Sykes say about race during the trial of Tom Robinson?

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Reverend Sykes is sitting near Jem and Scout as the verdict is about to be returned in Tom Robinson's trial. The reverend is the head of Calpurnia's church, and he understands the racial climate of Maycomb. Jem is hoping that Tom Robinson will receive a verdict of "not guilty," as...

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Reverend Sykes is sitting near Jem and Scout as the verdict is about to be returned in Tom Robinson's trial. The reverend is the head of Calpurnia's church, and he understands the racial climate of Maycomb. Jem is hoping that Tom Robinson will receive a verdict of "not guilty," as he knows that there is no substantial evidence against Tom. However, the Reverend Sykes tells Jem, "Now don’t you be so confident, Mr. Jem, I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man.” In other words, Reverend Sykes understands that in the Jim Crow South, any white man's (or white woman's) word is superior to a black man's word. He knows that the jury will decide that Tom Robinson is guilty simply because Bob and Mayella Ewell have testified against Tom. Jem does not understand this reality until the verdict is returned.

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At the beginning of Chapter 21, Jem feels confident about winning the court case and tells Reverend Sykes not to fret because Atticus has won. Jem points to the lack of evidence and conflicting testimonies of the Ewells as to why Tom Robinson will win the case. Reverend Sykes says that he has never witnessed a jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man before. In 1930's Alabama, racial inequality and injustice is common. Reverend Sykes is an intelligent man who is aware of the prejudice against African Americans in his community and is not overly confident like Jem. Jem is a naive child who believes that the result of the trial will reflect justice for Tom Robinson. Based solely on the evidence provided, Tom Robinson should be acquitted. However, the racist Macomb jury members convict Tom of raping Mayella Ewell. Jem is devastated and loses his faith in the community members of Maycomb.

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