Tom Robinson Character Traits

What are character traits of Tom Robinson in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee?

I also need three quotations from the book. If you could give me those that would be great but if not can you tell me instances when he showed this trait.

And I already have that he is Hard-Working.

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson is a morally upright, innocent man, who unfortunately becomes a victim of racial injustice after he is wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell. In a conversation between Atticus and Scout, Atticus provides some insight into Tom Robinson's character. Atticus tells his daughter,

"[Tom Robinson]'s a member of Calpurnia’s church, and Cal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks." (77)

During the trial, Tom takes the witness stand and reveals his magnanimous, compassionate personality by testifying that he routinely helped Mayella Ewell complete certain chores without accepting monetary compensation. Tom tells Atticus,

"Mr. Finch, it was way last spring. I remember it because it was choppin‘ time and I had my hoe with me. I said I didn’t have nothin’ but this hoe, but she said she had a hatchet. She give me the hatchet and I broke up the chiffarobe. She said, ‘I reckon I’ll hafta give you a nickel, won’t I?’ an‘ I said, ’No ma’am, there ain’t no charge.‘ Then I went home." (194)

During the cross-examination, Tom displays his sympathetic character by explaining to Mr. Gilmer why he routinely helped Mayella without expecting pay. Tom tells Mr. Gilmer,

"Yes, suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ‘em—" (201)

Unfortunately, Tom makes the mistake of testifying that he, a black man, felt sorry for Mayella, a white woman, and the prejudiced jury finds him guilty of a crime he did not commit. 

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom's character is revealed in the novel primarily through his testimony at his trial. It shows, for instance, that he was a very kind and compassionate person. He felt sorry for Mayella trying to take care of her many brothers and sisters with no help from her father. Tom testified that he often tried to give Mayella some help, doing small jobs for her on his way to and from work. He expected no payment; he helped her out of the goodness of his heart. When Tom testified to this at his trial, he made a serious mistake by telling the truth--that he felt sorry for the girl. Because he was black and she was white, this was seen as "being uppity" on his part.

Tom was also realistic. He knew when he testified that he had no power to defend himself while being questioned by the white prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer. Tom spoke very carefully, trying not to offend, trying hard to play the racial role expected of him in Maycomb before the white jury. He accepted Gilmer's insults and condesension because he had to. When he dared to disagree with Gilmer on one point, Tom had to apologize to the prosecutor who attacked him for his "attitude." Tom was fighting for his life in court, and he knew he had little or no chance of winning.

Reviewing Tom's trial in the novel will provide numerous passages that show these character traits of his.

madison5sisters | Student

Tom Robinson is a very caring and loving person. He felt bad for Mayella so he wanted to help her and didnt want any money in return. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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