to kill a mockingbird notes



To Kill A Mockingbird - Chapters 18-19

Summary

Mayella testifies next, a reasonably clean nineteen-year- old girl who is obviously terrified. She says that she called Tom Robinson inside the fence that evening and offered him a nickel to break up a dresser for her, and that once he got inside the house he grabbed her and took advantage of her. In Atticus\' cross-examination, Mayella reveals that she has seven siblings to care for, a drunken father, and no friends.
Then Atticus examines her testimony and asks why she didn\'t put up a better fight, why her screams didn\'t bring the other children running, and--most importantly--how Tom Robinson managed the crime with a useless left hand, torn apart by a cotton gin when he was a boy. Atticus begs her to admit that there was no rape, that her father beat her. She shouts at him and calls the courtroom cowards if they don\'t convict Tom Robinson, and then bursts into tears refusing to answer any more questions. In the recess that follows, Mr. Underwood notices the children up in the balcony, but Jem tells Scout that the newspaper editor won\'t tell Atticus-- although he might include it in the social section of the newspaper.
The prosecution rests, and Atticus calls only one witness--Tom Robinson. Tom testifies that he always passed the Ewell house on the way to work, and that Mayella often asked him to do chores for her. On the evening in question, she asked him to come inside the house and fix a door. When he got inside, however, there was nothing wrong with the door, and he noticed that the other children were gone. Mayella told him that she had saved her money and sent them all to buy ice cream, and then she asked him to lift a box down from a dresser. When he climbed up on a chair, she grabbed his legs, scaring him so much that he jumped down. Then she hugged him around the waist, and asked him to kiss her. As she struggled, her father appeared at the window, calling Mayella a whore and threatening to kill her, and then Tom fled.
Link Deas, Tom\'s white employer, stands up and tells everyone that in eight years of work, he has never had any trouble from Tom. Judge Taylorexpels him furiously from the courtroom for interrupting; then Mr. Gilmer gets up and cross-examines Tom. The prosecutor points out that the defendant was once arrested for disorderly conduct, and gets Tom to admit that he has the strength, even with one hand, to hold a woman down and rape her. Then he begins to badger the witness, asking about his motives for always helping Mayella with her chores, and getting him to admit that "I felt right sorry for her." That doesn\'t go over well in the courtroom-- black people are not supposed to feel sorry for a white person. Mr. Gilmer goes over Mayella\'s testimony, accusing Tom of lying about everything. Dill begins to cry and Scout takes him out of the courtroom.
Commentary

If Bob Ewell is villainous, his daughter is pitiable, and their miserable existence almost allows her to join the novel\'s parade of innocent victims--she, too, is (up to a point) a kind of mockingbird. Lee\'s presentation of Mayella emphasizes her role as victim--her father beats her and possibly molests her, while she takes care of the children and so lacks kind treatment that when Atticus calls her Miss Mayella,she accuses him of making fun of her. She has no friends, and Scout seems justified in thinking that she "must have been the loneliest person in the world." Even Atticus pities her. Mayella\'s victimization is marred by her attempt to become a victimizer, to destroy Tom Robinson in order to cover her shame. We can have no real sympathy for Mayella Ewell--whatever her sufferings, she inflicts worse cruelty on others.
Pity must be reserved for Tom Robinson, whose honesty and goodness render him supremely moral. Unlike the Ewells, he is hardworking, honest, and has enough compassion to make the fatal mistake of feeling sorry for Mayella Ewell, a white girl. His story is clearly the true version of