What is ironic about Mayella's accusations against Tom in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony about Tom's situation is that he is being accused of attacking Mayella when it was actually Mayella who instigated the physical contact. Furthermore, Mayella was willing to kiss and hug Tom--a married black man who had no interest in her--yet on the stand she pretends to be repulsed by him. Additionally, Mayella is beaten by her own father and not the man she has accused, who only tried to help her. Tom had helped Mayella with chores before, although he had never entered her house (it was was a dangerous proposition for a black man to enter a white man's house), and his only intent was to put her door back on its hinges. Inside, she suddenly hugged and kissed him, and Tom tried his best to get past her and run. But Bob appeared at the window, and he threatened his daughter, telling her

"... you goddam whore, I'll kill ya."

But Mayella has quite a different story to tell. She accuses Tom of attacking her, choking her, beating her, and raping her; instead, it is her father who causes her injuries. Mayella decides to go along with her father's story out of her fear for him, and the innocent man who has tried to help her is convicted of her father's crimes. Tom is sent to jail, and Mayella is left to live with her brute of a father. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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