To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis

Next, Mayella takes the stand and promptly bursts into tears. Judge Taylor has to comfort her and tell her not to be afraid of Atticus or his questions, which earns her the sympathy of the court and makes Scout wonder if she has good sense. Mayella then testifies that she was sitting out on their porch on the night in question and that when Tom walked by she offered him a nickel to break up a chiffarobe for her—that's when he raped her, she says. When Atticus starts cross examining her she accuses him of "mocking" her by calling her Miss Mayella. She's not used to being treated so politely, and Judge Taylor has to explain to her that Atticus doesn't mean anything by it. Still, the cross examination starts off badly.

Atticus then asks her a series of questions that establish how old she is (nineteen), what her home life is like (hard and lonely, spent taking care of her younger siblings), and if she has any friends (she doesn't). She insists that her father has never hurt her, but does admit that he drinks. Atticus then repeats back her prior testimony about being choked and beaten and asks her to confirm that Tom was the one who raped her. Tom stands up, and that's when Scout and the spectators see that his left arm (the one he's supposed to have beat her with) hangs lifelessly at his side, having been crushed in an accident when he was younger. Seeing this, Jem and Scout realize that Mayella has been lying about what happened. Mayella figures out that this is what Atticus was getting at, but it's too late.

Atticus begins asking her questions so pointed and incisive that Mayella stops answering—where were her siblings? Why didn't they hear her? Why didn't she run? These are the holes in her story and Atticus makes them very obvious to the court. Finally, Mayella snaps back at Atticus, saying that Tom did rape her and that she won't answer anymore questions. Afterward, the state rests its case, and Judge Taylor calls...

(The entire section is 688 words.)