What was the "subtlety of Tom's predicament" on the day Mayella tried to seduce him in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Tom Robinson was acquainted with Mayella Ewell before she accused him of rape. He had to walk by the Ewell property on his way to work (for Link Deas), and he often would "tip m'hat when I'd go by." Tom had occasionally set foot on the property before, chopping wood and "totin' water" for Mayella, and to "bust up a chiffarobe for her." Tom's predicament was a conundrum: Although it was not in his best interests to enter the Ewell property (particularly because of Bob Ewell's hatred of Negroes), he was asked to come into the house by Mayella. A black man being inside a white man's home was not considered socially proper by many people--both blacks and whites--in the 1930s. Additionally, Tom was married; Mayella was not. However, it was also improper for a black man to refuse a white person's request. So, Tom, being a friendly man who knew that Mayella got little help around the house from her father or siblings, decided to help her out once again when she told him that
"Th' old door's off its hinges an' fall's comin' on pretty fast."
So, Tom entered the house in order to fix her door. He soon saw that there was nothing wrong with the door, and when she asked him to get a box off the top of a chiffarobe (a different one this time),
"... she grabbed me 'round th' legs... She scared me so bad I hopped down an' turned the chair over... I got down offa that chair an' turned around an' she sorta jumped on me... She hugged me round the waist."
When Mayella kissed Tom, and then told her to "Kiss me back, nigger," Tom tried to run; but Mayella blocked his path, and he knew better than to push her out of the way, so he asked her to move. It was then that Bob showed up. It was a classic, albeit innocent, case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.