Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How does Tom Robinson's trial in To Kill a Mockingbird relate to the poem "Strange Fruit" by Lewis Allen?

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In To Kill a Mockingbird Tom Robinson is a black man accused of raping a white woman. Everyone knows that Tom will never get a fair trial because he is a black man. In the end Tom is convicted and eventually killed although he was innocent. In the poem "Strange Fruit" we see the same kind of horrible injustice. 

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the roots,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

These same words from the poem can be used to illustrate the way the people of Maycomb thought. The mentality of most of the people in Maycomb was one of ignorance and prejudice. Racism was an everyday thing and black people were murdered on a daily basis. Strange Fruit is just another example of how racism ruins people's lives. Strange Fruit is a short poem, but leaves a lasting imprint once you read it.

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The lyrics to Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" are yet another expression of the same racism that threatens the life of Tom Robinson. In the song, the imagery is that of an African American hanged from the limbs of a poplar tree, a "pastoral scene of the gallant south." The song decries the lynchings that occurred all too often because of racism.

In many ways, the song outlines the intentions of the angry mob that Atticus and children confront outside the Macomb jailhouse door. This mob would like nothing more than to lynch Tom Robinson as a symbol and warning to other African Americans of the area.


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