As all the other posters note, Tom's death is a terrible tragedy. Since I've read this novel so many times and can't remember my initial reaction to the news of Tom's death, it's hard for me to say how I felt after I read the book the first time. (Obviously, I was saddened, but as I said, I don't remember specifics.)
But now, each time I guide my classes through To Kill A Mockingbird, I become exceedingly frustrated by Tom's death. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. But the sense of tragedy I feel is plagued with feelings of frustration. Atticus was hopeful that he'd be able to work an appeal, and while this might seem idealistic, I wish Tom could have had the patience to wait and see. However, when I put myself in his shoes, I can understand his decisions and understand how hopeless he must have felt.
Tom Robinson’s death was an end to terribly inevitability. Lee clearly laid groundwork that indicated this situation would have no good end. The lynching scene at the jail is but one example. So when Robinson died, it was tragic and sad, but the reader probably knew it was coming in some form or another.
What is your reaction to Tom Robinson's death?
I'm doing a survey and I need different opinions and points of view!
I guess only the most hard-hearted bigot would not feel sympathy about the death of Tom Robinson. Virtually everything that Tom did (apart from his escape attempt) was of a lawful and loving nature. He became associated with Mayella because he felt sorry for her and merely tried to assist her. He knew his place in the white-dominated Southern society of the time, and he probably should never have spoken to her or entered her house. Ultimately, to have been caged like a mockingbird would not have been to Tom's liking--Atticus believed he would have had the death sentence removed on appeal--so at least his death freed him from that possibility.
Pointless is the word that comes to mind. Ironically, Jem realizes when Tom is found guilty, that it's all over for him. He has witnessed firsthand how unjust his community can be and doesn't have the hope that Atticus does about winning on appeal. Nonetheless, the reader cannot help but get his hopes up slightly when Tom is still alive after the trial.
When I first read the scene in which Atticus receives the news that Tom is dead, I was sickened. My students always wonder why Tom would try to escape because they think that that attempt was pointless, but readers must consider Tom's mindset after already being found guilty by his own community. He had no hope left.
My reaction is that it's such an unjust and unfair death. Tom is clearly innocent, yet is found guilty, and in a moment of panic he makes a decision that costs him his life. It's like even though he was found guilty there is still a glimmer of hope that Atticus can get him off on appeal...and then he is killed. Whenever I read that scene, my stomach drops and is filled with a "deadening"--I don't even know if it can be described like that, but it's the same one you get when you hear news about innocent people killed or injured due to something they had no control over. Very sad; makes me feel hopeless at that point in the book. Evil seems to prevail over the scene.
It is clear that Harper Lee wants the reader to be saddened and angered by the death of Tom Robinson. He is a sympathetic character, a "mockingbird" who, despite the time and place in which he lives, tires to do right by Mayella and help a young woman who has a difficult life. It is clear to anyone who reads the story that Tom was innocent of the rape of Mayella, and Tom's conviction and ultimate death, not to mention the reaction of some townspeople that is alluded to later in the book, is supposed to be troubling to the reader.