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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What is the outcome of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Despite the fact that Atticus has clearly cast doubt on the testimony of both Bob Ewell and his daughter Mayella, showing that Tom, with one crippled hand, could not have delivered the blow that left a bruise on Mayella's face, the jury finds him guilty. They do so, it seems, out of pure racism--a black man simply could not receive a fair trial in Maycomb. More specifically, it seems that Tom's compassion for Mayella was his undoing before the jury. Gilmer, the prosecutor, makes a great show of casting scorn on his apparent sympathy for the girl, who lives a miserable life in desperate poverty with an abusive and lazy father. But Mayella is white, and when Tom says he stopped to help her, because he felt sorry for her, Scout observes that the jury would not look kindly on his sympathy, and they would never believe that he had no ulterior motive (in this case, sexual desire for a white woman) for helping her. Tom later will attempt to escape from jail rather than awaiting an appeal, which Atticus thinks he can win, and is shot and killed in the process. 

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