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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I do believe that the character of Tom Robinson had to have been found guilty, because the novel’s overall purpose would have changed drastically if he was not–the purpose being to explore how much racism affected people in the early 1900’s. If he had been found not guilty, the idea of racism would not be explored, because essentially, that is why Tom Robinson was convicted, because people were racist. If he had been given a fair, nondiscriminatory trial, I have no doubt he would have become a free man. His character also refers back to the title, “To Kill A Mockingbird” because in the novel, Tom Robinson represented the mockingbird. Scout Finch, the narrator of the novel, recollected her father and family friend saying, “’Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. ‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,’ “(Lee 119). This proves how Tom Robinson represented a mockingbird–he was innocent and died an unjustified death. He hadn’t done anything that made it justifiable for him to be convicted, which led to his eventual murder. Another character in the novel, Mr. Underwood, also “likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds” which also ties in with how Tom Robinson represents a mockingbird (Lee 323). All in all, I do believe Tom Robinson had to have been convicted, or else the story would have completely changed, along with its themes and purpose.
I actually am thinking the opposite of you, Yin Yang. I do not believe that Tom Robinson had to be found guilty. This is because I feel like it would give the story a little twist. The story has the idea of racism and has a good way of pointing that out with the guilty charge. If this did not happen, than I still believe that tom would still have been killed from the anger of people that a negro is not of charge--therefore still exploring the idea of racism. Also, I believe it would still anger the people of Maycomb even more and cause another plot in the story. Since tom was found guilty, it explored the idea of racism and showed the readers how most trials for Negros ended. But, it was an obvious ending to that specific plot and it was known. If he wasn't found guilty, he would end up a free man and then killed giving a twist to the story. Now obviously that would still be a bad thing, but harper lee would still know how to make it fit in the book. Since most people in Maycomb are racist, they are closed minded. They don't like to be proven wrong and are not open to new ideas. In cases like the tom Robinson case, "people generally see what they look for, and hear what the listen for" (Lee 97). This means that people only want to hear what they want to hear, in this case, proving tom guilty. If he wasn't charged as guilty, then Judge Taylor would not have said this and the jury- with others- would be open minded. This also means that in the book people don't like to hear other's opinions, only towards the people that agree with them. So, it would have been better if Harper Lee did not create the idea of Tom being guilty because it would still explore racism and make some people- at least- show the lesson of the idea of being open minded. Therefore I do not agree with you
I do understand where you’re coming from, Sweettooth, but if Tom Robinson had not been found guilty, it would have expressed the idea that things in the south of the 1930s were not all that bad, which Harper Lee was not trying to convey, if Tom had been found not guilty in the first place. I don’t think it would have explored the idea of some humans’ hateful ideologies. Of course, the people of Maycomb becoming angry at the verdict, leading them to murder Tom themselves would have also explored the idea, but I don’t think it would have explored it well enough–it would have showed that people weren’t racist enough to convict an innocent, black man. Thus, through Harper Lee choosing this course of action in the novel, I think it better proved how hateful human beings can be–enough to convict an obviously innocent black man to death, all for the reason that he was black. It (the results of the court case), expanded on the idea of how detestable people can be. As Atticus explained it, in reference to the conviction of Tom Robinson, “They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it–seems that only children weep (Lee 285). This further shows how innocent people suffer at the hands of racism repeatedly. The conviction of Tom Robinson was a perfect example of this, and further explained that human beings can be downright horrid. All in all, I do believe that Tom Robinson being found as guilty had a bigger effect on what Harper Lee was trying to convey through the novel, than if he had been found innocent.
I do agree with you yin yang about how he should be found guilty because of time that the story was taken place. If he wasnt the book wont be based on that time accurately and like you said the people had that belief that black and white are not the same, that the white were better. And i totally agree with you that the people were bias and the people who lived or seen the trail because the folks there were pretty much the same in their belief like when Miss. Gates said when she was leaving the court house " Its time somebody taught 'em a lesson" (Lee 330). This proves my point even better because it show how the people felt and how they were and the folks there were just like that.
Actually, I disagree with you Sweettooth. If Tom Robinson wasn't have been guilty, then the whole town will be happy because they all know that Tom Robison was not guilty. The only one who would be plotting revenge would be Bob Ewell. Tom Robinson had have to be found guilty because that can show how Jem reacts and how the whole town reacts to this. It gives the reader information about how racism was in the old days in the south. The story shows integrity and the message the story is giving is integrity. It would not make everyone more angry because they all believe in Atticus and they know Tom Robinson had have to be found guilty. To illustrate my point, in the court room, Judge Taylor kept saying "Guilty...guilty...guilty...guilty",(Lee 211). The pauses between the words tells that even the Judge isn't happy about Tom Robinson being guilty. So maybe everyone in the court room was feeling the same way. They would feel the same way because no one in Maycomb likes the Ewells because they know that they lie and are very rude folks. In order for all this to happen, Tom had to be found guilty.
i agree with you Sunset this is because Tom Robinson had to be found guilty in order for us to see Atticus integrity.Other people in the town like you said might get happy if Tom Robinson was not guilty but they didn't have the integrity to defend him and stay by his side because he was black.This also bring us to another theme of the story which is captured in the title to kill a mockingbird .Tom Robinson was an innocent black guy he didn't harm anyone and he also used to help people and this is why the Maycomb people liked him.And by him being guilty of the charge and later killed by the police ''seventeen bullet holes in him''(Lee 315) shows the amount of hate and racism Maycomb people had for black people.As if Tom wasn't dead after the first or second shot .This theme of racism is very important and without Tom Robinson being guilty the story would lose its meaning and lessons .
Well I disagree, because if he wasn't found guilty the town would be conflicted. People would want to start problems because they didn't get what they wanted (Tom to die). Then the town would split even more; there would be those who believe that Tom should be guilty and those who don't think to should be guilty. And if that where to happen the story would somewhat lose its main point and its to kill a mockingbird. And besides that, the town would not be happy because Bob Ewell wouldn't have gotten what he wanted; people would know what Bob did making Bob real angry. And Bob intended to get Tom killed, he even went as far as to say "one down and about two more to go" (Lee 323). And this proves that Tom had to be guilty because either way Bob intended to get him killed.
I agree with you Void because either way if Tom Robinson was guilty or not guilty the town would still be conflicted. If he wasn't found guility many people would have been angry. But he was found guilty in the book and Bob Ewell still wasn't satisfied. Even after Tom Robinson was shot Bob Ewell says "Mr.Ewell said it made one down and about two more to go." (Lee,323), this shows Bob Ewell was a chacrter full of hate and would of reacted badly if Tom Robinson was found not guilty.
I agree with you Void on the point that Tom Robinson had to be found guilty in order for the story themes to make sense .What is even more is that he had to be killed in this disgusting unfair way to prove the title or you can call it the main theme of the novel '' To kill a mockingbird '' .If Tom wasn't found guilty then this proves that Maycomb town is not racist and they treat black people equally.And Atticus would not have the chance to defend Tom Robinson and be the example of integrity .Basically all of the points Harper Lee was trying to make would be the opposite.Tom Robinson had to be the victim or the mockingbird of the story in order for us to learn what Atticus was trying to teach his kids “’Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird'' this evidence proves that people might not learn their lesson if nothing big happened .For example Tom Robinson the innocent good guy had to be killed in order for the Maycomb people to relieze how racist they were .
To be honest, Sunset, you changed my point of view. You have a point that most of the town was thinking that Tom was innocent, but didn't want to show it. I say this because during this time of history, it wasn't considered a good sign if you accepted Negros. So, if someone in the town spoke out, they could be threatened or even worse. Getting back to the point, you were right, it would have been necessary for Tom to be found guilty because it gives the actual message of the story that even if you are innocent, you will be found guilty if you are a Negro. Like you said, in the trial when the charges were being put out, Judge Taylor was repeating "Guilty...guilty...guilty...guilty" (Lee 211). This means that, as you said, Judge Taylor was pausing in between from the grief of the voting, and the whites in the room were probably down as well because the case was stated clearly and he wasn't let off. Also, Bob Ewell was the only one that took action of any sort after the trial related to it. So, coming to a conclusion, if Tom hadn't been found guilty, then the point of the story wouldn't have been made clear. And thank you for changing my point of view.
What twist? The story would lose its purpose. If Tom wasn't found guilty then Bob would continue to go after him anyway. And if Tom wasn't found guilty the book wouldn't revolve around the idea of racism, integrity, and the idea of a mockingbird - the book would lose its purpose. There isn't really much that I can say; thus, Tom Robinson had to be guilty.
I agree with you on how He had to be found guilty, but what if he wasn't? The theme of "To Kill a Mockingbird is integrity. what if Cunningham's cousin did the right thing and told the people he believes Tom is innocent, How would the story change? If he hadn't been found guilty he wouldn't have "been shot 17 times in the back" and maybe peoples eyes could have opened up. "there's a faint difference between a man who's going to convict and a man who's a little disturbed in his mind, isn't there? he was only uncertainty on the whole list." (Lee 298 ). If Cunningham did the right thing and said Not Guilty, then the one theme would still be there which is integrity.