What are the similarities between Emmett Till and Tom Robinsion?

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several similarities in the case of Emmett Till and Tom Robinson. Emmett Till's case is heartbreaking. He was just 14 when he was tortured and killed in Mississippi in the 1950s. Emmett lived with his mother in Chicago and had heard stories of Mississippi. When an uncle came to visit, Emmett told him he wanted to go and visit. This starts the tragic chain of events.

Like in To Kill a Mockingbird, a black person was falsely accused of committing a crime. Like Tom Robinson, Emmett Till was accused of flirting with a white woman. Carolyn Bryant was the white woman who Emmett was said to be flirting with. When Carolyn's husband Roy found out about it, he and J.W. Milam went and took Emmett from his uncle's house and tortured him and then murdered him.

  • Emmett Till was a black male accused of flirting with a white woman, while Tom Robinson was a black male accused of raping a white woman.
  • The trials are very similar. The jury was made up of all white men and did not take long to come back with a verdict.
  • The courtroom was segregated.

Unlike the case of Tom Robinson, Emmett Till was never put on trial in a courtroom; his young body was discovered in the river. Just like in To Kill a Mockingbird, the men who did commit a crime were white, and they all got away with their crimes. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam never thought of themselves as guilty and didn't think that they did anything wrong, just like Bob Ewell. There are striking similarities in the two men, but sadly Emmett Till is not the work of fiction.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With Harper Lee's novel having been published in 1960, and the Emmet Till case in 1955, the two share the same historical context; therefore, there are, certainly, parallels between the cases of Tom Robinson and Emmet Till:

  • Both were victims of racial prejudice, a prejudice which cost them their lives
  • Like the jury in Tom Robinson's trial, the jury in the Emmet Till case was all white males.
  • Both trials were held in segregated courtrooms
  • Both juries did not take long to return their verdicts
  • The guilty white men went free.  In Till's case, the two men later admitted to their crime.  In Tom Robinson's case, Atticus Finch proves Bob Ewell a liar.
  • Neither Bob Ewell or the two men were punished


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, only that they both died as a result of the culture of the South that said that black men must have nothing to do with white women.

Outside of that, Till was a child (14), Robinson a man.  Till was killed by civilians, Robinson in prison.  Robinson was accused and convicted of a crime, Till just said the wrong thing and got killed for it by the woman's family.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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