Why did Tom Robinson try to escape jail?

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Having had the justice system of Maycomb County fail him at the trial despite Atticus 's proving him incapable of making the marks upon Mayella, Tom Robinson has no faith in an appeal, even though Atticus has encouraged him to be patient and trust him. For, there are simply too...

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Having had the justice system of Maycomb County fail him at the trial despite Atticus's proving him incapable of making the marks upon Mayella, Tom Robinson has no faith in an appeal, even though Atticus has encouraged him to be patient and trust him. For, there are simply too many other factors in the his environment which cause him to be mistrustful and terrified:

  • The Jim Crow Laws are still in effect; he is marginalized by society
  • The jury for an appeal trial will again be 12 white men
  • The mob came for him once before; they may well come and lynch him now--or worse (burning, beating, torture, etc.)
  • He has probably known of other men like himself who were falsely accused, yet were beaten or killed.
  • He may feel like a caged animal and suffer from tremendous stress as he imagines what can befall him. 
  • He may have completely despaired, thinking his only chance is flight.
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Many question Tom's decision because of Atticus' reassurance that he be patient and wait for the appeal. Remember, though, that Atticus had clearly proved Tom was innocent. Mayella had practically admitted on the stand that he was innocent. The judge had said aloud that Tom could not have beaten Mayella. And yet the jury still found him guilty. Tom had no hope left.

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Tom flees because he has already been let down by the justice system once and has absolutely no faith that an appeal will do him any good. The reality that he will "get the chair" looms large.

When the news comes, Atticus explains to Aunt Alexandra (Ch 24): "They shot him...he was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started to climb. Right in front of them...". Atticus continues, "We had such a good chance. I told him what I thought, but I couldn't truth say that we had more than a good chance. I guess Tom was tired of white men's chances and preferred to take his own."

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