In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what two points does Mr. Gilmer try to make in cross-examining Tom, in Ch. 19?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in Chapter Sixteen, Mr. Gilmer, the prosecuting attorney tries to make two points during his cross-examination of Tom Robinson.

The first thing he brings up is the fact that Tom was arrested for fighting with another man. Gilmer is not interested that it was considered a "misdemeanor;" he simply wants to establish that Tom is violent, and capable of violence—inferring his capacity to visit violence upon Mayella Ewell.

I believe the second thing he his trying to establish is the reason Tom was on the Ewell property: that it was his choice and he was pursuing Mayella, rather than the other way around. In disputing Mayella's version of the incident, Gilmer tries to get Tom to admit that he is calling Mayella a liar, but Tom simply says she was "confused in her mind." Gilmer tries to take Tom's presence at the Ewell home on various occasions as proof of his pursuit of Mayella, rather than helping her with chores as he has testified. Gilmer asks:

Had your eye on her a long time, hadn't you, boy?

Tom repeatedly denies that he did anything inappropriate, but Gilmer is only interested in twisting the truth.

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