What are three quotes from the text about Tom Robinson that reveal how he was a diligent worker and a generous man?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you're looking for quotes that reveal someone's characteristics, rather than looking for any one particular type of quote, broaden your search to include any of these:

  • Things that the character says out loud
  • Things that the character thinks
  • Things that the character does
  • Things that the narrator or other characters say about that character

Here are some examples. I'll put in bold the quotes that are most relevant to establishing Tom's character not just as good but as diligent and generous.

1. First, from Chapter 9, here's something that Atticus says to Scout. He's talking about Tom Robinson:

"He lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump. He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, and Cal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks."

That quote helps characterize Tom as reputable, church-going, and clean-living. It's good support for the idea that Tom is a good worker: otherwise, he would have a reputation as someone lazy, and Calpurnia wouldn't say such good things about him.

2. Chapter 12 includes Reverend Sykes's address to the congregation, when he says this about Tom:

"He has been a faithful member of First Purchase since he was a boy."

The Reverend's comment, especially since he makes it publicly, reveals that Tom's reputation is strong in the community and corroborates what Calpurnia said about him in Chapter 9.

3. In Chapter 18 as Mayella gives her testimony in court, the narrator gives us this physical description of Tom:

"Tom Robinson’s powerful shoulders rippled under his thin shirt. He rose to his feet and stood with his right hand on the back of his chair. He looked oddly off balance, but it was not from the way he was standing. His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the balcony I could see that it was no use to him."

This physical description show us that Tom is muscular despite having one arm that is useless. The only way someone could build up a strong physique like that in spite of his disability would be someone who works hard, consistently. This description, then, reveals that Tom must work diligently to stay in such good physical shape.

4. In Chapter 19, here's Tom himself, giving testimony, and explaining how he works for Mr. Link Deas:

"I works pretty steady for him all year round, he’s got a lot of pecan trees’n things."

Here, Tom is saying that he works throughout the entire year, and that his employer has plenty for him to do. It's a fairly straightforward quote for establishing his character as a diligent worker.

5. A moment later, Tom recounts the story of doing some manual labor for Mayella, for free:

"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."

This is clear evidence of Tom's generosity. He wasn't employed by Mayella or her family, and he still did work for them for free.

6. We even see that he did this habitually, with his kind and helpful attitude never faltering:

"She’d call me in, suh. Seemed like every time I passed by yonder she’d have some little somethin‘ for me to do—choppin’ kindlin‘, totin’ water for her. She watered them red flowers every day—”

“Were you paid for your services?”

“No suh, not after she offered me a nickel the first time. I was glad to do it, Mr. Ewell didn’t seem to help her none, and neither did the chillun, and I knowed she didn’t have no nickels to spare."

7. A bit further in that chapter, the narrator, Scout, realizes this about Tom and Mayella:

"Maycomb gave [Mayella's family] Christmas baskets, welfare money, and the back of its hand. Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her."

This quote helps establish once more than Tom was a good man, someone who shows kindness to the lonely, uneducated, poorly-mannered Mayella.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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