Topic 3: Did Tom Robinson have to be found guilty? Could Harper Lee have written the story so that the jury found him “not guilty” of the charges? How would the story and its themes have changed?
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Honesty, I understand where you are coming from, but I disagree that the "one theme" of the book is to show integrity. The book demonstrates courage, and heroism, and the tales of sin, innocence, and heartbreak. This story also centers around coming of age, and what that actually means to young adolescents. It's coming of age with little (said) guidance-- it all comes from the children. The story would change of course without the theme of integrity-- because that also has to do with coming of age among other things-- but we knew that the "double cousin Cunningham" would not have said Tom was not guilty. We know this because although, "The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience" Mr. 'double cousin' Cunningham was not anyone in Maycomb of significance-- he did not have inregrity-- even though he did contemplate giving him the non guilty verdict. And let's say he did, the rest of the jury would've chosen GUILTY, and then he, would've faced backlash for being the only person on the jury for picking non guilty. Nobody would ever win. Going to a point I made in an earlier post, even if Tom Robinson's verdict was non guilty, he would have had nobody to back him up in the town of Maycomb, and living in such a close vicinity to the Ewell's wouldn't have been safe for him either.
Sorry! I forgot to cite my quote as (Lee 140).
Sorry Fairy Dust, but I disagree because you said that the book demonstrates things other than integrity, such as "courage, and heroism, and the tales of sin, innocence, and heartbreak" . but all those relate in some way to integrity. The book demonstrates different forms of integrity; that's why Tom Robinson was in the book: to show the multiple ways that people have/lack integrity. What I mean by this is that the characters in the book all have to face moments that require these different parts of integrity. For example, when the characters go to the Tom Robinson trial, one can tell that Atticus was a hero in some peoples eyes because he was "born to do our unpleasant jobs for [others]" (Lee 288). And I don't consider that being a hero - no, I consider that integrity. And if Tom Robinson was not found guilty, the characters wouldn't really be able to develop characteristics of integrity; if Tom was not found guilty, the reader wouldn't really even notice that the book revolves around the idea of integrity.
Honesty, I don’t exactly believe that integrity was meant to be a theme of the novel, and if it was, I believe it would be a smaller theme, and not an overall one. I believe the overall purpose, the message that Harper Lee was trying to convey, was how much racism affected people in the South in the early 1900s, especially relating it back to how it destroyed innocents like Tom Robinson all because he was black. That was it. That was his only crime, for being born with a darker skin color than the norm. He represented the innocent mockingbird in the novel that shouldn’t have died, especially not the way he did, “Seventeen bullet holes in him” (Lee 315). Atticus Finch stated, “The witnesses for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption—the evil assumption—that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, (Lee 273). This shows how racist people were in the South at that time—that they’d automatically believe whatever a white man had to say over a black man because of these stereotypes about blacks that existed. People wouldn't even consider what a black man had to say, no matter how credible that man was. Overall, I believe that Tom Robinson had to have been found guilty so the novel’s broader purpose and message would have still been represented.
Yin Yang i understand where you're coming from but i disagree with you this is because i believe that integrity is the overall theme of the novel. Atticus the main character was shown as the man of integrity by using Tom Robinson case .During the early 1900's black people weren't treated the same .They were judged as bad people just because they were born with a darker skin .So the fact that Atticus was the only person from the whole town who stood up for the truth and defended Tom Robinson even though he was put in dangerous and Bob almost killed his kids prove that he is a man of integrity .Atticus didn't care and did the right thing no matter the consequences. Atticus told Jem ''so if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating ''(Lee 218).This evidence show that Tom Robinson had to be found guilty in order for us to learn from Atticus integrity that even if a lot people disagreed with you nothing should stop you from doing the right thing.
Yin Yang i do agree with you on the fact that the main purpose of Harper lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is to show how racism impacted the south in the early 60's but that doesn't mean that the overall theme couldn't be integrity. since theme and purpose are two different things, i believe that the overall theme was integrity because it showed how the finches and a few others in Maycomb did the right thing no matter what. They went against everybody's racist views in Maycomb and dealt with some backlash because they stood for what they believed in and didn't back down. atticus said once to his daughter, "when summer comes you'll have to keep your head about far worse things... it's not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down—well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you'll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn't let you down."(lee 139). even though Atticus understands that his children are too young to comprehend whats going on and they don't understand why they are being disrespected by others, atticus is still doing the right thing and trying to teach his kids a lesson because he knows that at one point they will learn from this. maycomb is ridiculous, young kids are having to deal with criticism from adults, because people cant comprehend why their father is fighting for a black man. this ties into both the purpose of showing racism and the theme of integrity.
I agree with you Yin Yang that Tom Robinson had to be found guilty, because if he wasn't found guilty it wouldn't make any scene, if you think about it back then in the 1900's if a black man was in court with a white person he would be found guilty in a few minutes. Now just like you said if he wasn't found guilty the whole idea of racism would have not been there. If he were to take the trial in our day right now he would be found not guilty, why? Well because he didn't do what she said he did, he did not "rape" her the only reason he was found guilty is because everybody was very racist in that time. Just like i was saying before he would not be found guilty because people aren't that racist now it is way less than it used to be. "In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins" (Lee 295). This proves that even that Tom Robinson was 100% right he still got guilty for no reason. The only reason they had to say he was guilty and then kill him was a white person said a lie about a black man.
I do believe Tom Robinson had to be found guilty because if he didn't then the theme and the story would change. Tom was a black man being convicted of raping a young white girl, and the jury accused him and found him guilty because he was black. One of the main themes in To Kill A Mockingbird is that don't judge a book by its cover. The jury judged Tom based on what they saw and wrongfully accused him of being guilty. It is quoted by Scout ( the narrator ) "Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them..." This shows that you shouldn't make assumptions based on what you see, but by who they are and what their story is.
I would agree with you but if Tom Robinson was found innocent, Harper Lee would have done that for a reason and obviously the story with the theme would change. He didn't have to be convicted of a crime. He didn't even have to die. The theme don't judge a book by it's cover didn't even have to be in the book. Harper Lee could have changed the entire book by just changing the skin color of Tom Robinson. Also, those people of maycomb in the story didn't really know who Tom was and during that time judgment was a huge factor during the 1930s. They didn't know what type of person he was.
I agree with you Honesty because since the Negroes are treated bad and will be accused of anything i see why they would accuse Tom Robinson to be guilty. Even though he was guilty for something he didn't do, your right when you say "The jury judged Tom based on what they saw and wrongfully accused him of being guilty" because since the judge was white and Robinson was black its obvious that he would say Robinson is guilty.
I truly believe that Tom Robinson had to have been found guilty; if Tom Robinson wasn't found guilty, the entire plot would change - there wouldn't really be a good plot. The point of the story is to explain to the reader what a mockingbird is - and this cannot be done without having Tom Robinson found guilty. This book was also created to show the multiple forms of hypocrisy during times like the great depression. An during those times, blacks were mistreated badly no matter what they did. And if Tom Robinson was found innocent, then everything would just go on regularly, nothing would change; the reader wouldn't understand why it is a "sin" to kill a mockingbird. The characters in the story wouldn't really develop and learn from the trial if Tom was found innocent. In the story, main character Scout Finch (right after learning about how/why Hitler kill the Jews) says to her brother "How can [people] hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home" (Lee 331). She said this because she notice people being mean to Tom strictly because he is black; however if Tom wasn't found guilty Scout wouldn't have had this thought and she wouldn't have developed and built upon this idea. This also comes to show that people are mistreating Tom even though he really hasn't done anything wrong - he is simply the mockingbird. The book would have change completely; the town would never learn and build off of what happened. Thus, Tom Robinson had to be found guilty in order for the stories plot to develop.
Void, I disagree with how you said the plot of the story wouldn't be good without Tom Robinson, I'm sure Harper Lee could have created another magnificent story line for this book-- no doubt. I do agree though, that it wouldn't have been nearly as good as this final outcome of the story was. Tom Robinson's case was a thriller to say the least. To Jem especially, and even the reader. Throughout the whole trial everyone was wondering what's going to happen next with large amounts of anticipation, but really-- we knew what the outcome was deep down the whole time: we just didn't want to admit it. In chapter nine, while talking to Atticus, Scout asks, "Atticus, are we going to win it [the trial]?" Atticus responds with, "No, honey... Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win" (Lee 101). Atticus knows that the trial was not going to be won, but the fact that he tried even though he knew, and that there was just a little slimmer of hope for everyone. We all know that Maycomb is a racist county-- but the courtroom that day was filled with unspoken unity because almost everybody believed that Tom Robinson was not guilty, and that truly helped the children, as well as anyone in the town-- black or white, to develop as people and come of age. You could see how-- with the quote you cited-- Scout is finally maturing, and making the comparison of racist Hitler to the racists and hypocrites in Maycomb, that's amazing! Who knows, if it weren't for Tom Robinson's guilty charge, would Scout have ever made this comparison? Without the help of Jem or even Atticus, she came up with this all on her own. We see the coming of age throughout the story, and the guilty verdict had a lot to do with it.