The trial shows us that the jury system in Maycomb is corrupt and racist.
‘No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me.’ Page 190 This is in response to Atticus asking Mayella Ewell if Tom Robinson hit her. From her hesitation and contradicting answers it is clear that Mayella is not telling the truth and is creating a story to lead the jury on. Despite this, Tom Robinson is still convicted. This shows that although it is obvious Tom did not harm Mayella, Maycomb’s society is so set in its ways that the jury allow their own prejudice to influence the decisions they make.
What does the trial teach us about Atticus’s skills as a lawyer?
During the trial we see Atticus attempt to defend Tom Robinson who has been accused of raping a young girl.
‘You the oldest?..
How long has your mother been dead?..
Did you ever go to school?..
How long did you go to school?’ Page 188
These are questions that Atticus asks Mayella Ewell to answer when questioning her during the trial. These are obviously not questions that are to do with the rape of Mayella however, Atticus is being clever and building up a picture of Mayella Ewell’s life for the jury. Mayella is a young girl and in the novel is described as ‘fragile looking’ and ‘accustomed to strenuous labour’. From the picture Atticus builds up of Mayella, it seems she is a lonely girl who is under the control of her drunk and abusive father. By building up this picture of her, it makes Tom Robinson’s recall of events much more believable to the jury.
What does the courtroom teach us about racial prejudice?
During the trial we learn that the courtroom is split into two – black people and white people.
‘The coloured balcony ran along the three walls of the courtroom.’ Page 170 Scout refers to the upstairs of the courtroom as ‘the coloured balcony’ which shows us that to her, it is normal for white people and black people to be separated as that is the way it is in Maycomb. During the time, there would have also been no black people in the jury. The white community of Maycomb believe that the coloured people should not be allowed downstairs where the trial takes place.
What does the trial teach us about Mr Ewell? How does Harper Lee want the reader to react to him and why?
The trial teaches us a lot about Bob Ewell and the Ewell family. We learn they are a very big family that are very poor and live beside the rubbish dump. They are very lower class, dirty people and are not respected by the people of Maycomb. During the trial, Bob Ewell is rude when Mr Gilmer asks him questions about the case.
‘Mr Ewell, you will keep your testimony within the confines of Christian English usage, if that is possible.’ Page 180 By including this Harper Lee is portraying Bob Ewell as a very rude man which makes him immediately unlikable to the reader. Harper Lee does not want us to like Bob Ewell and by turning him into the villain it makes the reader feel sympathy for Mayella Ewell.