Atticus Finch, although belonging to the white community, defends Tom Robinson, a subjugated black who stands of raping a white woman. Through his actions, Finch promotes equality and liberty, having a simple purpose of having justice served, regardless of race. However, he is opposed by the accusers; Mayella and her father Bob Ewell, while other members of the white community term him a "nigger-lover".
In the novel, Bob Ewell is portrayed as a villain. His disregard for other human beings and his uncaring attitude towards his own family reveal that he is a man of limited values. It is his hatred against the black community that drives his actions and not concern for his daughter. In the end, although he wins the case, he loses the respect of the people and goes to the extent of attempting to harm Atticus’ children.
Tensions also arise in the courtroom, where Atticus tries to defend the accused; Tom Robinson. Although Tom’s innocence is evident, the jury delivers the verdict "guilty”. This reveals an evident conflict between knowing what is right and acting justly. Finch knows what is right and has the courage to act out his beliefs. The jury, however, passes a verdict that would be pleasing to the masses, even though it may be gross injustice.
Racism is a prevalent theme in the novel. "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for" says Mrs. Dubose, showing that anyone trying to break the cycle of racism would be seen in a poor light, even though they may be just. Other conflicts include those of sexism as well as those of social class.
Through this statement, Finch reveals his unwavering faith in the judiciary system to deliver an unbiased and fair verdict in Tom’s case. He firmly believes that one should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Juries know the truth based on admissible evidence in order to determine guilt beyond reasonable doubt. During the period when the incidents of the novel take place, the courts were often swayed by racial and gender prejudices, as is evident from the guilty verdict pronounced against Tom at the end. Today, after apartheid and racism have been declared a punishable offence in the US, the statement made by Finch is closer to the truth. However, there is still a long way to go in the attainment of absolute eradication of racism from the judicial system .
Tom Robinson asserted that Mayella attempted to seduce him. In court, Tom states that he frequently helped Mayella with household tasks because he felt sorry for the way she was treated by her father. Despite his defense, Tom anticipates that the ruling will be against him.
Mayella tried to seduce Tom, an act seen by her father. She makes the accusation in order to save herself from the consequent torment of her father as well as the indignation of having desired a black man.
The judge, John Taylor, shows distaste for the Ewells and has great respect for Atticus. He believes that Atticus is the only man who can save Tom.
The prosecutor, Mr. Gimer, is looking for the best interest of the state. He faces resistance from Bob Ewell as his witness and maintains his composure despite Bob’s rudeness. He does not object when Atticus tries to get Miss Ewell to reveal information.
The jury viewed and declared Robinson to be guilty, although his innocence was evident.
The sheriff was convinced that Tom was innocent and tries to help him.
The black citizens in the court believed that Tom was innocent and were following the proceedings closely in hopes that justice would be served
Scout, Atticus’ daughter, views Tom as an innocent man. She even tries to stop a mob from hanging him.
Jem, Atticus’ son, believes that Tom is innocent and motives to convict him are driven by racism.
Dill, Jem’s friend, is innocence personified. He gets upset when Mr. Gimer treats badly Tom during questioning, and does not understand how human beings can be cruel to each other.
Atticus Finch firmly believed that Tom was innocent, defended him in court, having full faith that he would be acquitted once undeniable evidence was produced.
a) Tom Robinson - the accused, b) Mayella - the accuser, c) John Taylor - the judge, d) (Mr. Gimer – the prosecutor, e) Atticus Finch - defense attorney, and f) the jury.
The novel is based in a time where social relationship in the context of justice and equality were very complex. The story is full of characters that are themselves facing conflicts between beliefs and actions. From characters such as the Bob Ewell, we learn that selfish hatred against others, though may seem to be successful, at the end does not win hearts. Through Finch’s character, we learn that even though our efforts may not always yield the desired results, following the path of justice and kindness only adds to our self-worth, in our own eyes as well as that of others.
When Harper first submitted her manuscript "To Kill a Mockingbird" to the publisher, the court sessions were perceived to be more like a series comprising of short stories than the novel. Only after watching the film for several times do some parts merge.
The three characters that interested me the most are Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson and Boo Radley.
Atticus Finch is Scout and Jem's father. He is a local lawyer in Maycomb County; he tries hard to raise his children so that they have integrity and ability to come to their own conclusions about things in life. He lives his own life to meet high moral standards, and this compels him to defend Tom Robinson. He feels that Mr. Robinson is an innocent man, who has been wrongly accused due the colour of his skin. Although he is aware that he is most likely to lose, he still fights in the name of justice and humanity.
Tom Robinson is a humble black man accused of beating and raping Mayella. His left arm is crippled from an accident at the farm which happened when he was young, this made it physical impossible to beat Mayella because the attacker used their left arm. He is married, has children, very friendly and approachable. Should Tom have been fair skinned, he would have probably been quite liked by the people of the community. However, despite being a good man, he knows that he will be punished for a crime he did not commit and resigns himself to this fact, accepting his fate.
Boo Radley is a fascinating character. He is a matter of legend among the children with several varying stories being told to explain why he has remained enclosed in his house for years. According to one account, one day when he was young as he became involved with a group of kids from Old Sarum. He was arrested for causing trouble and locked in the courthouse outhouse. After his release, his father took him home and he was not seen again for the next fifteen years. Another story related that Boo Radley stabbed his father in his leg with a pair of scissors while cutting newspaper. He was then locked in the courthouse basement years before he came home again. Jem, Scout, and Dill made ghost stories of Radley, this made other children in town to be afraid of him. They said that he usually came out at night to eat cats and squirrels, and that he was the local spook. Despite being painted in such negative light early on, we later realize that Boo, whose real name is Arthur, is not really a bad person. He began to win Scout and Jem over by placing gifts for them in the knothole of the oak tree. He covered Scout with a blanket on the cold night night she and Jem spent in front of the Radley house while Miss Maudies the house burned down. He also saved them from Bob Ewell.
My favorite character
My favorite character in the novel is Atticus Finch. He is a good father and a kind human being. He has the courage to fight for what is right. Finch is also self evaluative by nature. His attitude changes throughout the story as a result, and he emerges a better person in the end, despite his defeat in the court. When he realizes that he can influence his children's views, he and his nanny worked together so as to make sure that his children understand that the black community are good people and white people should not always be favored.
ACLU. About the Racial Justice Program. 17 November 2006. 11 August 2012