What are Tom Robinson's philosophy and beliefs?And what song would symbolize his philosophy?

Expert Answers
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson is the black man accused of raping a white woman in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Tom lives a simple life, as do most Negroes in Maycomb, the fictional town that serves as the setting of the novel. Tom is uneducated and physically disabled (he suffered an accident to his left arm while working), but he is a hard worker who labors as a field hand for Link Deas, picking cotton, pecans and other seasonal crops. He does yard work off-season to help make ends meet. He is a loving father and husband. He obviously has a big heart, since he realizes the possible consequences by helping Mayella Ewell whenever she requests it. When she kisses him one day under the guise of helping her with some heavy housework, he runs from the Ewell home: he is a loyal husband and has no sexual desires for any white woman. This respectable aspect of Tom's character is what ignites Mayella's wrath; and when her father, Tom, realizes what Tom has been doing there, he accuses him of raping his daughter. 

Tom and his attorney, Atticus Finch, both realize that there is little chance of Tom gaining his freedom from the rape trial. Tom admits to his fears. When Atticus asks if he was frightened after being kissed by Mayella, Tom responds, "If you was a nigger like me, you'd be scared, too." Although Atticus has high hopes of freeing Tom on appeal, Tom is more realistic; when he sees a chance to escape his imprisonment--and possibly the electric chair--he runs and is killed.

As for an appropriate song, how about The Allman Brothers' "Whippin' Post"?

I been run down
Lord, I been lied to
And I don't know why
I let that mean woman make out a fool... 
Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
Like I been
Tied to the whippin' post
Tied to the whippin' post
Good Lord, I feel like I'm dyin'... 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another song that could fit Tom Robinson's character is one that is not as well known as the other two appropriate choices mentioned above, "Ain't No Reason" by Brett Dennen.  As the long-suffering stereotype of the Jim Crow Negroe, Tom Robinson could often reflect upon his fate in his silent moments.  And, as this stereotypic 1930s black man, Tom would have the attitude expressed by many of the black men that Richard Wright makes note of in his autobiography, Black Boy:  they were somewhat resigned to the fact that Jim Crow would supersede anything else.

Here is the first verse from Brett Dennen's song:

There ain't no reason things are this way,

It's how they always been and they intend to stay.

I can't explain why we live this way; we do it everyday.

Preachers on the podium, speakin' of saints in seance,

Prophets on the sidewalk, beggin' for a change,

Old ladies laughing from the fire-escape, cursing my name.

I got a basket full of lemons, and they all taste the same,

A window and a pigeon with a broken wing,

You can spend your whole life workin' for something

Just to have it taken away.

People walk around, pushing back their debts,

Talkin' 'bout nothin', not thinkin' 'bout death,

Every little heartbeat, every little breath,

People walk a tightrope on a razor's edge

Carryin' their hurt, hatred, and weapons.

It could be a bomb, a bullet, or a pen

Or a thought or a word or a sentence.


mkcapen1 | Student

Tom Robinson in the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee is a black man accused of raping a white girl.  In the book he is arrested and brought to trial as a victim of southern racism.  He resided in a small black community that required him to pass by the accuser, Mayella Ewell's home.  He does odd jobs for money because he had no primary skills and jobs were hard to come by in the economically depressed town.

Tom is a kind and good man.  This is evidenced in the book by the way people he worked for discuss him and tell about him in court.  he believes in helping others.  Not many people would have had anything to do with the Ewell's.  When Mayelle asks him for help, Tom agrees to help her not o much for the money but because he was kind.  He is concerned about people's feeling.  When Mayella tries to kiss him he is careful not to hurt her by gently pushing her away.

Tom is a also a fatalist, a person who feels that events occur because of fate.  He is aware that he is going to be condemned to death and this is the fate that awaits him.  He tries to escape and is killed in the process.

I would choose part of the song by the Kingston trio to represent Tom Robinson's philosophy: "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley"

"Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Poor boy, you're bound to die"

"This time tomorrow
Reckon where I'll be
Down in some lonesome valley
Hangin' from a white oak tree

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question