Why can't Helen Robinson get work in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 12, Scout and Jem accompany Calpurnia to her church, where they discover Reverend Sykes is taking up a collection for Helen Robinson. Scout is confused why they would have to do that for her, so she asks the Reverend about it. He tells her that Helen Robinson has three children to feed and she "can't go out to work" (123). This answer does not satisfy Scout because she knows of a lot of African Americans who were allowed to work in the field with their children alongside them. The mothers would find some shade for the kids and watch them as she worked. The Reverend tells Scout he hopes Link Deas will have some work for Helen Robinson when the harvest comes, but the truth comes out when Scout asks Calpurnia about Helen not being able to work. Calpurnia responds with the following:

"It's because of what folks say Tom's done... Folks aren't anxious to—to have anything to do with any of his family" (123).

At that time, Maycomb's employers were white, and white people generally sided with other whites. As a result, white people didn't hire Helen because her husband is the black man in a racial controversy. Many white people did this out of loyalty to their own race and prejudice, not because truth is on white people's side. As a result, Helen Robinson is ostracized from working because her husband is accused of raping a white girl.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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