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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are Tom Robinson's greatest personal traits in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Tom Robinson is a figure who exemplifies many of the Beatitudes from the Bible (Matthew 5: 3-12 and Luke 6:20-22): He is meek; he is merciful; he is pure in heart; he tries to be a peacemaker.

Tom Robinson demonstrates that he is meek when he is on the witness stand, where he endures cruelty and injury with patience. Despite the innuendos and insults hurled at him by Bob and Mayella Ewell before the court, Tom does not speak disparagingly about them. For instance, Tom is reluctant to accuse Mayella of lying; he simply says that she is "mistaken in her mind." Earlier in his testimony he states that he tried to resist Mayella's advances: "I didn't wanta be ugly, I didn't wanta push her or nothin'." Later, when Mr. Gilmer is insulting in his interrogation of Tom, Tom remains polite and responds to the questions in a respectful manner by addressing Mr. Gilmer as "suh" (sir).

Tom is, indeed, merciful. Despite being brought to trial on false charges and facing dangerous consequences, he holds no grudges against the Ewells. In fact, he says that he feels sorry for Mayella.

Certainly, Tom is pure in heart. He says that he thought that Mayella needed help; he never suspected her of other motives for having him come into her yard and house.

Tom tries to be a peacemaker as he is always humble, speaking respectfully at all times. In fact, Link Deas tries to tell the court about Tom's good and peaceful character when he says that Tom has never given him any trouble.

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By all rights, Tom Robinson is apparently a humble, honest, kind man. Tom admits that he has helped Mayella Ewell before when she needed assistance around the house, and he has never taken money for his work. Tom "felt right sorry for her" since "she didn't have nobody to help her" around the Ewell house. He is a family man with a wife, Helen, and children; the members of the First Purchase Church think enough of Tom to take up a collection for his family. Link Deas voices his opinion in the courtroom--and then is thrown out--announcing that

"That boy's worked for me for eight years an' I ain't had a speck o'trouble outa him. Not a speck."  (Chapter 19)

Unlike Bob and Mayella Ewell, Tom answers each question respectfully, addressing both Atticus and Mr. Gilmer as "sir." Tom admits that he had been arrested before, for defending himself against another man, and that he had "served thirty days for disorderly conduct." His honesty is probably his strongest trait, and Atticus points this out to the jury.

     "And so a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to 'feel sorry' for a white woman has had to put his word against two white people's."  (Chapter 20)

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