To what extent was Tom Robinson’s fate sealed the moment Mayella Ewell accused him of rape. Maycomb is presented as a town fill with many prejudices. However, in the American south of the 1930s racial prejudice was probably the most dangerous and most lethal. This can be seen in the case of Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. The implications of being found guilty of such a crime would almost certainly have been the enforcement of the death penalty. The likelihood of being found innocent would have been extremely remote, as can be seen throughout the trial of Tom Robinson.
The only remotely positive aspect to Tom Robinsons’ trial is that judge Taylor appoints Atticus Finch as his lawyer. Atticus is a dedicated defence lawyer who really cares about the law being without prejudice. In his closing speech at the trial he says: “our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal. ” He makes this statement in vain hope that the jury might be persuaded to see past tom Robinsons’ colour and be judged purely in the eyes of the law.
Sadly, in Maycomb at this time, this war was never going to happen. Throughout the course of the trial it becomes increasingly evident that would have been physically impossible for Tom Robinson to have committed the crime of which he is accused. The deformity of his left arm, stemming from a childhood accident, would have prevented this from being possible. Although all the evidence suggests Tom Robinsons’ innocence, it becomes increasingly apparent that the trial is merely a formality and that the white male jury had found him guilty before he had entered the courtroom.
This can be seen by the way in which the white men in the town form a lynch mob and head to the Maycomb jail prior to the trial with the intention of despairing their own form of vigilante justice. They make their intentions clear to Atticus, who sits outside the jail guarding tom, and do not hide the fact that if Atticus does not let them through then he is at risk: “you know what we want … gat aside from the door, Mr. Finch. ” The mob becomes more and more aggressive until it is only scout talking to one of them, Mr.
Cunningham, about his son that brings back his senses and makes him rational human being once more. At this point it was a Cunningham who was in favour of acquitting Tom. It is here that it becomes clear that opinions will change but that will be slowly. Later, Atticus explains that normally rational men are completely changed by their overwhelming racial hatred for the black community: “those are twelve reasonable men in everyday life, Tom’s jury, but you saw something come between them and reason. The statement of men is sexist as women like Miss Maudie would not have been allowed to run for jury, although she was probably the least judgmental person in the community. The situation is exacerbated by tom admitting that he felt sorry for Mayella Ewell and that this is why he helped her with her chores. This is a huge mistake as it further alienates the white community, who reel in horror at the notion that a black man would have the audacity to pity a white woman. Tom realises his error, but it is too late.
It is unlikely that he would have been acquitted anyway, but this reinforces to the white community that their views of ‘niggers’ are justified. Not even an impassioned plea from Atticus in his closing speech can save tom. Tom Robinsons’ fate was sealed the moments that Mayella Ewell accused him of rape because even though her family is looked down on as ‘white trash’ and generally despised, she is still white and he is still black. The degree of racial prejudice in Maycomb is highlighted by Atticus when he says, “in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man’s always wins.
They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life. ” The people of Maycomb County have very strict ideas about what is appropriate and what is not within their society. Mr. Dolphus Raymond is shunned because he has mixed-race children and boo Radley is seen as a monster because he does not conform to the societies expectations. In such prejudiced and judgmental society Tom stood no chance. Perhaps the one glimmer of hope is that it took the jury a few hours to decide unanimously to convict him, rather than the usual few minutes. This suggests some hope of change in the future. Word Count: 801