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 agree with you, Fairy dust, about the fact that the story could have a different line to go on. I also agree that it wouldn't be as good, but is still possible. If Tom Robinson wasn't found guilty, than I say he would still end up being killed. I say, like you, that Maycomb if a place full of racist and that people probably wouldn't like the idea that a negro is being let off the hook, even though he didn't do anything wrong. I think Harper Lee is trying to show that even if our differences don't matter, they still come into place the majority of the time. I say this because in the book, people are closed minded and "generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for"(Lee 97). Harper Lee means that the citizens always want to be right, and if they are not, then they find the usual concept to blame--race. In a way to reflect on our selves, we only want to be the correct ones in society, and disagree if we are proven wrong. Relating to the main point, Tom Robinson didn't have to be proven guilty because he will die either way. This is because the citizens would do whatever it takes to be the right ones and get rid of the Negros (just like how some may do whatever it takes to be the right ones--only some).
Tom Robinson did have to be found guilty during his trial because up to that point, the overall atmosphere of Maycomb focused on just exactly how racist Maycomb really was. Although many people in Maycomb kept their opinions hidden, many didn't. Tom had to be found guilty to show emphasis on the time frame in Maycomb. People in Maycomb were very set in their ways-- for the most part-- and even knew that it was a "white mans world". If Robinson's trial was found not guilty, the emphasis, and build up of Maycomb's past, and even present, wouldn't make any sense to the book as a wholel. If Tom Robinson was found not guilty, he would still remain to be targeted and hated by the majority of Maycomb-- because he was a black man; even if they knew he didn't do the crime. Bob Ewell would also try to seek revenge on Robinson, because he tried so hard to cover his crime up, and he soon started to believe his own lie. The atmosphere of Maycomb would change forever: this court case would be the first in Maycomb history where a black man was chosen non guilty over a white man. Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize award winning author writes,"In our courts, it is a white mans word against a black mans, the white man always wins. They're [the court's] ugly, but those are the facts of life" (Lee 297). Even though we know Tom was in the right, it was still important for him to lose. The fact that he was convicted of a crime that most of Maycomb knows wasn't true, shows how even though people may do the right thing, are unjustly punished for somebody else's actions, while others stand in the shadow turning a blind eye. Tom Robinson's verdict also shows a lesson to Jem and Scout growing up as adolescents. Scout and Jem-- especially Jem-- take this time to truly form their own opinions on the matter, agreeing and disagreeing with their father Atticus (respectfully). This shows how the kids are becoming their own individuals. I feel as though if the verdict was not guilty, the matter wouldn't have played a large life lesson in their lives. The jury's decision hit the Finch family hard, teaching them an underlying lesson as well as the reader. The atmosphere of the book and the overall moral of integrity, and "doing the right thing" would be taken away if Tom was considered not guilty. Tom being guilty also inspires the Finch family to explore the "wrongs" and "rights" in the world, especially their community. This verdict shows how bad things can often happen to great people, and it truly sucks (for a lack of better words).
I do believe that Tom Robinson had to be found guilty of the charge to prove that people aren't treating black people fairly. This is because black people in the 1900's were jugged by stereotypes and they didn't have equal rights .The fact that your skin color was black meant that you're a bad person whether you were guilty or not. So it was important for him to be found guilty even though he didn't rape Mayella Ewelle so we can learn a lesson from the book which is not Judge a person passed on their race or their history .The author Harbor Lee claims in her novel ''to kill a mockingbird'' when Atticus the main character was talking to his daughter he said ''Most people are when you finally see them''(Lee 280).This evidence show that if the judge was not racist he could have found that Tom Robinson was innocent but his racial biases prevented him from doing the right .After all Tom had to be found guilty in order for the story themes to make sense by testing people integrity to see if they will stand by the truth no matter the consequences .
To be honest, I think it goes beyond just skin color. Yes of course, the overall main concept of the trial is because Tom is a black man who harassed a white woman, but I think the story still would have showed that black people weren't treated fairly even if the trial was eliminated. There was a lot of back story on the black community in Maycomb-- even though they weren't a big part of Scout's life, they were a big part of the overall story. The way the "negro" community was spoken of in the book makes it seem run down, and not nearly as nice as the Finch's house (and the Ewell's weren't any better). I also disagree with how you said, "if the judge was not racist he could have found that Tom Robinson was innocent". I disagree with this because we learned that Atticus didn't volunteer to appoint Tom Robinson. Atticus tells, "You know, I'd hope to get through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said, 'You're it'" (Lee 117). This shows how Maycomb was a racist town, and Judge Taylor definitely had some racist ideologies because of this, but the fact that he appointed Atticus when he knew Atticus would pull a good trial, says something. That just gave me so much hope-- that maybe Tom Robinson could have won: but we now know that that hope was diminished,
I completely disagree with you Fairydust on how you said the story would still show how racism impacted the south if the trial was eliminated. We all knew that racism existed in the 1900's, it still happens today, how people are called racial slurs and treated badly based on the color of their skin and apart from the trial that's pretty much what happened. But the trial showed how a liked, good,clearly innocent man lost to a hated terrible one because of the color of his skin. It showed that no matter who you are, you will never be accepted or equal to the people in Maycomb, that you are nothing more than the pigment of your skin. This trial seems unthinkable to us almost 90 years later from when it "happened" but other things like a woman of color being harassed and called names walking home is still common. I like to think that in another 90 years racism will be completely abolished. Continuing on, I disagree with you saying judge Taylor has racist ideologies because of the verdict. Atticus says to aunt Alexandra when Bob Ewell tries to break into judge Taylor's house, "I proved him a liar but John made him look like a fool. All the time Ewell was on the stand I couldn't dare look at John and keep a straight face. John looked at him as if he were a three-legged chicken or a square egg. Don't tell me judges don't try to prejudice juries"(Lee 335). Judge Taylor like many people finds Bob Ewell ridiculous and did what he can do on the stand to persuade the jury. But still they reached a unanimous decision and he couldn't have ignored their decision. He was on Tom Robinsons side and tried to let the trial be fair with more than one subtle way.
Tom Robinson had to be found guilty in order for the reader to realize the true lesson of the novel. To Kill A Mockingbird is a story based in the 1930s - times where racism and segregation were ongoing and common (especially in the south, where the setting takes place) even though slavery had been put to an end. The main lessons the novel teaches were only proven because of Tom Robinson being found guilty. How could a novel display the true issues of the south's racism if a black man in a white town was found innocent, regardless if he was guilty or not? Without Tom being convicted, the reader would come to the conclusion that people in Maycomb aren't necessarily racist - that they value blacks just as much as they value whites and don't have any prejudice towards the black community. As Atticus Finch, the lawyer for Tom Robinson puts it, "The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box" (Lee 220). Either way, Atticus puts into words how people will still harbor their racist thoughts even if they are serving on a jury, ultimately displaying the inequality throughout Maycomb and how this inequality can deeply affect the blacks to the point that they can be charged for something they never did without a fair trial. This trial's ending of a guilty verdict is what shows the racial prejudice that the town of Maycomb, Alabama has - and without the verdict, To Kill A Mockingbird's teachings of equality in early America wouldn't be proven to the reader as easily.
I agree with you Self, because the outcome of the trial did represent what Harper Lee was trying to convey-that people during that time and in that place, were undoubtedly racist to the point where an obviously innocent black man was convicted as a cause of that prejudice. One of the purposes was to express how close-minded people could be, especially at that period of time. Judge Taylor stated in court, “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for” (Lee 232). This quote proves how narrow-minded people can be-they only believe what they want to believe, no matter what. This is also proven by the conviction of Tom Robinson. He was obviously innocent, there was no evidence toward him beating and raping Mayella Ewell, but he was still convicted. Why? Because people were racist and close-minded. They refused to believe whatever else because of their obvious prejudice, and were extremely close-minded. The court trial resulting in Tom Robinson being declared guilty proved this, and I don’t believe the theme of exploring racism would have been expressed without Tom being found guilty.
I disagree with you Yin Yang because Harper Lee didn't have to make the story have any sort of racism. Tom Robinson didn't have to be guilty and the story could have been entirely different. The story could have conveyed a different story line to the readers. What if Tom was a white man? What if it wasn't during the 1900s. On the other hand, I do agree with you on how you said there are people in the story that are close minded and only believe what they want to believe. One main thing is how they think of blacks, "I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling at the jury: 'Guilty... guilty... guilty... guilty...' I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each 'guilty' was a separate stab between them" (Lee 282). This is a part of the book that any white person would want to here. They don't care if he's innocent or not, they just care about having the white man win because they just want to hear that the white man is better.
I believe that Tom Robinson had have to be found guilty because without him being guilty, what is the point of continuing the story and what its true meaning is. The book is called "To Kill a Mockingbird". Tom Robinson is the mockingbird of the story who gets killed even though half of Maycomb knows that he is not guilty. To further illuminate my point, Atticus tells Jem that "I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can't hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (Lee 90). Tom Robinson is shot 17 times to death when the people know that he didn't do anything except helping Mayalla Ewell with her chores. This connects to what Ms. Maudie said. She said that "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up peoples gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."(Lee 90). Tom Robinson's death shows how the people in Maycomb don't have integrity. They knew it was a bad thing to punish/kill Tom, but they still did the wrong thing. So you see, without Tom Robinson, all these things wouldn't have stood out in the story and the whole theme of the story will be either changed, boring or ruined.
Tom Robinson had to be found guilty. He had to because it completes the story and the theme plus the time. If he was found innocent the story wouldn't be based on the 1900s because during that time thats how it was. The story would be based on a different time because during that time people were more racist and segregated then today. He was a black man convicted for rape. Without him being guilty then the book wouldn't have that reference to relate to (to kill a mocking bird). There wouldn't be a strong point of the book if he was found non-guilty but on the other hand if he was guilty which he was there would be a stronger point to the book and the end.
Tom Robinson had to be found guilty because it showed how alive and prejudiced the people are in Maycomb. Even though blacks were free, racism and hatred was so alive it didnt matter. Tom Robinson a clearly good and innocent man lost to a horrible one not based on evidence, but by the color of his skin. Anything Atticus had to say didnt matter to the jury. Mr Underwood a character in the story says this in his paper, "Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of these good men heart Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed" (Lee 323). If he was found innocent, it would show that blacks have a sliver of equality in their life because people hold the truth over skin. If they found him innocent that means the jury had to put everything they know about racism and show integrity. That shows another lesson, that many people dont gain integrity in one day. These men are mostly middle aged and racist and the older you grow the more set in your ways you become. It would have been a miracle if tom was innocent because the jury would have said that blacks are really equal not by law but in the peoples hearts and its clear by the way they were treated that they're not.