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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What is the verdict in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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The verdict in the rape trial of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is "guilty." The indigent African American with the crippled left arm, the arm he would have needed to inflict the bruises on Mayella Ewell's face had Tom been the culprit, was convicted of raping Mayella by an all-white jury in a case that had begun with a forgone conclusion. The jury in Tom's trial was able to witness, thanks to Atticus Finch's efforts on his behalf, the defendant's physical deformity, and the jury was just as able to listen to the highly suspicious testimonies of Mayella and her father, Bob, the individual who almost certainly inflicted the wounds in question on his daughter's body. That the jury found Tom guilty was a sign of the times, especially in the Deep South, the setting for Lee's story. As Atticus explains the situation to his son Jem in the trial's aftermath: 

"In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is a story with multiple themes, the most compelling of which is the legacy of racism endemic in the world in which Harper Lee grew up. Tom stood accused, and was convicted of a crime he did not commit solely on the basis of the color of his skin. If there is any justice in Lee's novel, it comes about by way of the local sheriff's willingness to sweep under the proverbial rug the true nature of Bob Ewell's own demise later in the story.

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