Who was most responsible for Tom Robinsons death?

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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This is a hard question to answer because it asks you to look at several people/things that quite possibly are responsible for Tom's death.  Is the accuser responsible?  Is the racism of the South responsible?  Is the all white jury responsible?  Is the prison guard responsible for shooting Tom who is trying to escape? It is a questionable whether Tom is trying to escape when they shoot him.  If he was trying to escape, is Tom responsible for his own death?  So, here is the short list:

  • Bob Ewell
  • Mayella Ewell
  • racism/society
  • all white jury
  • prison guard
  • Tom

If you ask yourself where the blame lies, it becomes a vicious cycle of trying to figure it out.  For example, if Bob and Mayella Ewell, the jury, and the prison guard weren't racist, would the event have happened?  If they didn't live in a racist community, would he have been found guilty?  If Tom hadn't tried to escape, would he be dead?  Blame is not easy to place when you are dealing with an issue like racism and prejudice.  

Perhaps that is one thing Harper Lee wanted us to realize and struggle with.  The effects of racism are complicated and mired in years of values and beliefs.  If it was easy to fix, we wouldn't experience the things we do even today with acts of injustice due to racism.

So, it's up to you to decide.  Think about the root cause or person responsible for Tom's death, and set up a good argument, and defend it.  I don't think there is one right or wrong answer, but be prepared to argue for what you believe with good facts and details from the novel.

Good luck!

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