What are some quotes and examples of the loss of innocence during the trial from To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the trial of Tom Robinson, Jem and Scout are exposed to sordid realities from which they have previously been protected. They are subjected to the falsehoods and lewd details of the fabricated attack on Mayella.

  • In his testimony, Bob Ewell charges, "I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella!" After Judge Taylor exhorts Ewell to use standard Engish, Ewell then reiterates his statement, attesting that he was witness to Tom's raping of Mayella.
  • The children also witness Ewell's lying under oath just to implicate Tom in a sexual attack because Atticus proves that Tom could not have hit Mayella because the bruises on her face have been made by a left-handed man while Tom's left arm is paralyzed.
  • Mayella's hostility to Atticus is shameful as well, but may be defensive as she recites what her father has co-erced her to say. Then, after Scout asked herself,"What on earth was her life like? I soon found out." Slowly, the details of a life of neglect is reviewed as the Ewell children suffer from "ground-itch and deprivation."
  • Mayella is clearly repeating what her threatening father has told her. For instance, when Atticus asks her if she remembers Tom's having beaten her in the face, she does not know how to reply because she has not been instructed, so at first she tells the truth; then, she retracts her answer: "No, I don't recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me."
  • On Atticus's cross-examination, he "rains questions on her" as Scout describes his questioning. During this questioning it is evident that Mayella has been browbeaten by her despicable father. 
  • The scene of Tom on the stand is especially poignant as Scout and Jem discover that Tom is crippled and extremely polite and gentle. it becomes clear to Scout who observes her father's questioning and Tom's responses that Tom has been falsely accused.  Later, Scout loses her naivete about race relations when her father later explains, 

...he would not have dared strike a white woman under any circumstances and expect to live long, so he took the first opportunity to run--a sure sign of guilt.

  • After Mr. Gilmer's browbeating of Tom as he sits on the stand, Dill begins to cry and must leave the courtroom. When Dill says that Mr. Gilmer was cruel and insinuating to Tom, sneering at him, and calling him "boy" all the time, Scout replies that Tom is "just a Negro"; however, she later learns the cruel facts about this viewpoint.
  • Mr. Dolphus Raymond's observation about Dill also clarifies things about reality to the children, 

"Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too."

  • After Atticus points out that all men are supposed to be equal in a court of law and the jury issues a guilty verdict, Jem, Scout, and Dill are very disillusioned because they have heard the evidence.

What happened after that had a dreamlike quality: in a dream I saw the jury return,...I saw something only a lawyer's child could be expected to see...and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty.

Later, Jem cries to his father, that "It ain't right." Neighbors such as Aunt Rachel speak of Atticus having "beaten his head" and Bob Ewell promises retaliation against Atticus, and the children learn that he has come on Judge Taylor's property.

iamkaori | Student

"Judge Taylor was polling the jury: 'Guilty...guilty...guilty...guilty...' I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each 'guilty' was a separate stab between them"

"It was Jem's turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd. 'It ain't right,' he muttered, all the way to the corner of the square where we found Atticus waiting"

both show Jem's loss of innocence and faith in the peace of Maycomb.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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