The Trial Scene in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee August 24, 2009Posted by KJ theBookGirl in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Tags: Analysis, Atticus, bestseller, Blurb, Bob Ewell, book, books, characters, court room, English Literature, GCSE, Harper Lee, Heck Tate, KJ, Mayella Ewell, Plot, Racism, theBookGirl, Themes, TKAMB, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, trial
The trial scene is the first climax of the novel, and this means it has much depth and meaning. This article is going to look at analysing this scene, but it’s going to be broken down into various sections.
- Mr Heck Tate gives his account of what happened
- He describes the injuries
- Bob Ewell gives his account of what happened
- Ewell agrees with the description of the injuries Tate gave
- Atticus asks Ewell if he can read and write, showing Ewell is ambidextrous.
- Scout says “I thought Jem was counting his chickens” showing she is wiser in this case
- Mayella Ewell gives his account of what happened
- Atticus asks Mayella questions about herself, building up a picture of her neglect. He shows that Mayella doesn’t understand what love means, and it is implied Ewell has beaten her before.
- Tom Robinson gives his account
- Link Deas, Robinson’s employer, interrupts to back up Robinson
- Atticus makes a final speech in Robinson’s defence
Characters’ Positions in Trial
Mr Heck Tate
Tate is neutral – he doesn’t say whether he thinks Robinson is guilt or not, but simply tells what happened from his point of view. However, his language is very racist, and he easily believed Mayella’s word over Robinson’s. He also didn’t call for a doctor despite Mayella being so injured as he just was considering the evidence. It didn’t occur to him that Mayella may be in need of medical attention, or that a doctor would be called on to witness.
Tate’s account is that Bob Ewell ran to him and told him that Mayella was raped by Robinson, so he got in his car and went to the Ewell’s house, where he found Mayella lying on the floor. He helped her up and asked who had hurt her, and she claimed it was Tom Robinson. At this point Tate went to Robinson’s house and brought him back and arrested him. He didn’t call a doctor.
Ewell is clearly very against Robinson, but also seems against the world as a whole. Ewell is informal, bordering on obscene despite the Judge’s request, such as his description that “Mayella was screaming like a stuck hog”. He also says, very forcibly, “I seen that n***** yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” his language showing a disrespect for the court and taking credit away from his accusation. Ewell also didn’t bother to get a doctor, again showing a lack of care for the well being of his daughter.
Ewell’s account is that he was returning from chopping wood when he heard Mayella screaming. He dropped the wood and ran to Mayella but crashed into the fence and got caught in it. He then untangled himselfand went to the window to find Robinson raping Mayella. The room had clear evidence of a fight from the disruption to the furniture. Ewell ran into the house, but Robinson left. At this point Ewell went to Mayella rather than chasing Robinson. He then went for Tate.
Mayella claims Robinson is guilty at first, but is reduced to tears after cross examination. Mayella is very scared of everything in the court, especially Atticus, which amuses Mr Gilmer. Jem believes Mayella is trying to make Judge Taylor feel sorry for her when she begins to cry, but Scout thinks she is just stupid.
Mayella is described as having a “stealthy” and “cat like” confidence making her seem sneaky and untrustworthy.
Mayella’s account is that she was on the front porch, doing nothing, when Robinson came along and she asked him to chop up a chiffarobe into kindling, because Bob Ewell asked her to do it, but she wasn’t strong enough (even this account shows neglect and bad parenting). She then went to get him a nickel to pay for the work, but when her back was turned he threw himself on her. He got her “round the neck, cussin’ me and sayin’ dirt – I fought ‘n’ hollered, but he had me round the neck. He hit me agin and agin-”
She screamed and fought back but she couldn’t remember much more, apart from her father coming in just before she fainted. She then remembered being helped up by Tate.
Robinson obviously knows he’s innocent, but he hides nothing from the court and tells them all relevant information. He knows he is a dead man walking but doesn’t let that intimidate him as he gives his evidence, and as he trusts Atticus.
Robinsons account is that Mayella has often asked him to do odd jobs for her, and he does this free of charge because he feels sorry for her. This causes the white society to be shocked and discriminate against him, because they feel it is impertinent for a black person to pity a white person. He went into her house, on the night in question, when she asked him to chop up a chiffarobe. He did as she asked, but she grabbed his legs when he was standing on a chair. This shocked him and caused the chair to fall over. She then tried to hug him and kissed him.
“She says she never kissed a grown man before…She says what her papa do to her don’t count. She says: “Kiss me back, n*****.””
He ran from the room, and then saw Bob Ewell in the window, who shouted,
“You god-damn whore, I’ll kill ya.”
He then just ran away, and he admits he was scared.
Evidence of Robinson’s Innocence
- Robinson cannot use his left hand, so wouldn’t be able to injure Mayella dominantly on her right side, but that is where she is injured.
- His account had alibis and corresponds with his general character
- Mayella had bribed her siblings to go away as she was expecting Robinson, and she was lonely. She wanted love.
- Mayella admits she was kissed and implies more, by her father, in Robinson’s account
- Link Deas, his employer, backs him up
Evidence of Bob Ewell’s Guilt
- Bob Ewell is ambidextrous, and he was the only person present with a strong enough use of a left hand to inflict the injuries Mayella suffered, or to strangle so strongly with both hands.
- Mayella can’t fully admit it was Robinson, and hesitates and hides information, implying Bob Ewell has beaten her.