Why doesn't Mayella tell the truth at the trial? What does her testimony and that of her father reveal about their lives?Why doesn't Mayella tell the truth at the trial? What does her testimony and...

Why doesn't Mayella tell the truth at the trial? What does her testimony and that of her father reveal about their lives?

Why doesn't Mayella tell the truth at the trial? What does her testimony and that of her father reveal about their lives?

Asked on by mehoop

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Mayella lies to protect herself from embarrassment. She does not want to publically admit that she made advances to Tom Robinson. 

What is potentially more interesting is Mayella's relationship with her father. There is some evidence to suggest (at least the hint of a suggestion) that Bob Ewell would harm Mayella if she would to tell the truth. He has already given her a beating for kissing Tom Robinson. He may do more harm to her if she were to tell the police who really hit her. 

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

All of these are good reasons for Mayella's lying on the witness stand. She is afraid, she wants to cover her actions, and she is embarrassed. I would add that she is not well educated and is too sheltered to know exactly what she is doing. Perhaps I'm giving her too much credit, but I'll suggest that she had no real sense of the consequences of her lies. She is bright enough to plan ahead to get Tom alone with her, she has recognized Tom as a good man (as opposed to her father), and she has an innate appreciation for beauty (demonstrated by her red geraniums in the midst of her garbage-heap-decorated home. But I'm not sure she has the capacity or life experience to comprehend the consequences of her lies.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Mayella is embarrassed. She leads a simple life, and she doesn't understand the complexity of the situation.  She is trying to save face.  She thinks that Atticus is making fun of her when he is polite to her because she is not used to being treated respectfully.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Mayella is afraid of her father. She does not tell the truth at the trial for fear that her father will beat her again. Mayella and her father live a life of lies at the time of the trial. Their lives are filled with deceit. Mayella cannot answer any questions directly. She changes her answers under Atticus' questioning.

When Atticus asks her if her father had ever beaten her, she lies:

'My paw's never touched a hair o'my head in my life,' she declared firmly. 'He never touched me.'

Mayella knows she is lying. She covers for her father. She claims that he has never beaten her. She would rather watch an innocent man be accused for a crime he didn't do than to tell the truth about her father. She sounds convincing. She protects her father by lying. She and her father are despicable. There is no truth in them. They both know the true story, but both lie to condemn an innocent man. They are worried about their social standing in the community:

To avoid social disgrace, the Ewells claimed Tom had raped her.

In reality, the Ewells have no social standing. They are considered poor, ignorant, and unlearned. They have no reputation to protect. Their lies are dangerous, and Tom Robinson will suffer because of their lies.

 

I think that it is a bit harsh to categorize the Ewells as "despicable" and to put Mayella and her father in the same category.

One of the themes of the book, in my opinion, is that we need to understand what drives people to do things that may seem despicable to us.  In the case of the Ewells, I think that the fact that (as this post mentions) the Ewells have "no social standing" and are considered "poor, ignorant, and unlearned" has a great deal to do with how they act in the Tom Robinson case.

I think that their testimony shows us that they hunger for acceptance and to be seen as part of the white community in Maycomb.

hilahmarca's profile pic

hilahmarca | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Another reason Mayella doesn't tell the truth at the trial is because she is trying to cover up the fact that she made a pass at Tom Robinson and not the other way around. As Atticus points out in his closing arguments:

" 'She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man.' "

Mayella showed interest in Tom because she was so desperate for affection and so lonely and Tom had always been so polite to her, which is something she is not used to.

lsumner's profile pic

lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

Mayella is afraid of her father. She does not tell the truth at the trial for fear that her father will beat her again. Mayella and her father live a life of lies at the time of the trial. Their lives are filled with deceit. Mayella cannot answer any questions directly. She changes her answers under Atticus' questioning.

When Atticus asks her if her father had ever beaten her, she lies:

'My paw's never touched a hair o'my head in my life,' she declared firmly. 'He never touched me.'

Mayella knows she is lying. She covers for her father. She claims that he has never beaten her. She would rather watch an innocent man be accused for a crime he didn't do than to tell the truth about her father. She sounds convincing. She protects her father by lying. She and her father are despicable. There is no truth in them. They both know the true story, but both lie to condemn an innocent man. They are worried about their social standing in the community:

To avoid social disgrace, the Ewells claimed Tom had raped her.

In reality, the Ewells have no social standing. They are considered poor, ignorant, and unlearned. They have no reputation to protect. Their lies are dangerous, and Tom Robinson will suffer because of their lies.

 

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