Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What does Mayella accuse Tom Robinson of doing? What does she think happened? Describe Mayella's attitude toward everyone in the courtroom.

Expert Answers

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

In Chapter 18, Mayella Ewell takes the witness stand and accuses Tom Robinson of assaulting and raping her. Mayella's testimony is completely fabricated and contradictory. She tells Mr. Gilmer that she offered Tom Robinson a nickel to "bust up" an old chiffarobe. When she walked inside to retrieve the nickel, Mayella says that Tom followed her inside and choked her from behind. Once Tom grabbed Mayella around the neck, he began to hit her. Mayella says he "chunked" her on the ground and "took advantage" of her. Mayella claims that she does not remember the events that took place after she was assaulted.

When Atticus questions Mayella as to whether she remembers Tom beating her in the face, she says, "No, I don't recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me" (Lee 248). When Atticus asks her to identify the man who beat and took advantage of her, Mayella points at Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson has a crippled left arm, and Atticus simply asks, "How?" (Lee 249). Mayella claims that she doesn't know how it happened because it all happened so fast. Mayella finally testifies that Tom's punch glanced off her face because she ducked. She then says she started to kick, punch, and scream. Atticus then begins to rapidly question Mayella about why no one was able to hear her screams, and she does not respond.

Mayella's attitude is hostile and indignant the entire time she is on the witness stand. She views Atticus with contempt and is hesitant to answer his questions. Mayella cries as a way to gain the audiences' sympathy. When Atticus makes her recant her testimony she becomes extremely angry and even calls the jury, judge, and lawyers cowards for not believing her.

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