Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How does Tom Robinson get treated before the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Robinson is treated with contempt and distaste prior to his trial. Before the accusation of rape and assault, Mr. Robinson was a very upstanding citizen who took care of his family and never caused any trouble in the town. He was, in fact, rather well-liked and respected. However, when the accusations came in, he was caught up in the ensuing drama and was presumed guilty.

As a black man in the South, he was essentially guilty until proven innocent, and even then, he was still considered guilty. Because of his race, the people of the town automatically judged him, assumed he was guilty, and treated him with contempt throughout the remainder of the novel. In spite of his insistence of innocence and Atticus's vehement defense of him, the town and jury continued to treat him as guilty.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Robinson is a respected individual throughout his community and comes from a good family. Link Deas even mentions that he has never had any trouble from Tom Robinson in the eight years he's worked for him. However, once Tom Robinson is accused of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell, the citizens of Maycomb treat him like an outcast. In Chapter 12, Calpurnia takes the children to First Purchase African M.E. and Reverend Sykes takes up a second offering for Tom's family. When Scout asks why they were collecting money for Mrs. Robinson, Reverend Sykes tells her that Helen cannot find any work and she needs the money to take care of their children. The citizens of Maycomb realize that Tom is essentially guilty before he is even tried. A black man's word against the testimony of a white person is futile. No one, except Link Deas, is willing associate with the Robinson family. Therefore, Tom is treated as a guilty man and the citizens neglect him before the trial even begins.


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team