Chapter 17

Mr. Tate relates his story -- on the night of November twenty first, Mr. Ewell had rushed into his office saying that his daughter has been raped by a ‘nigger’. On reaching their house, he had found the girl on the floor, badly beaten up. She had declared that the ‘nigger’ had been none other than Tom Robinson. Then Atticus questions Mr. Tate as to whether a doctor had been called, but the reply is in the negative.


Then the magnitude of her bruises are discussed. Her right eye had been bruised and marks around her neck could also be noticed. Bob Ewell is called next on the witness stand. Ewell claims that on returning home, he had caught Tom in the act of raping his daughter. Atticus questions him next about the bruises, then makes him sign on an envelope, noticing aloud that he is left-handed.

Notes:
A description of the lifestyle of the Ewells is given, which gives one a fair idea of the utterly shabby and dilapidated life they lead. Ewell comes across as an audacious person, with no respect for others and a mean manner of speech. Jem realizes that the reason Atticus had paraded Ewell’s left-handedness, is to verify that he could have beaten his daughter, as her bruises are mostly on the right side of her face.

When the talk of rape and sexual intercourse arises, the Reverend deems it better that the children leave, especially Scout, but Jem placates him; the children had no plans of leaving the courtroom however, they miss out on watching their father defend the case.

Chapter 18

Mayella, Bob’s daughter is called to the witness stand. She gives her side of the story, claiming that Tom had forcefully entered the house, and had taken advantage of her, hitting her all the while. When Atticus rises to interrogate her, Mayella is extremely frightened. Through his penetrating questions, it is revealed that the family is very poor, the father spends most of the relief money on drinks, and that she is a very lonely girl, bereft of love and affection. On cross-examining her further, as to whether it had really been Tom or her father who had beaten her up, Mayella at first remains silent in terror and then bursts into tears. The court is adjourned for a recess. Mr. Underwood sees the children, and the children perceive that a mention of them would definitely be made in the next issue of the "Tribune".

Notes:
The courtroom is fraught with tension during the ensuing verbal battle first between Ewell and Atticus, and later between Mayella and Atticus. Atticus has his own style of throwing questions at the person quite casually to disarm one, and at the right moment, pelting questions to and rattle him.

The fact that Tom Robinson is crippled, with his left hand shriveled, proves that he could not have been the one to beat up Mayella, since the bruises were on the right side of her face. The case logically appears to bend in favor of Tom Robinson.

Judge Taylor, for all his disposition of being a lazy man, prone to dozing during the court-scene, is truly a good judge; very sharp at particular points, and not without a sense of humor.

Chapter 19

Thomas Robinson is Atticus’ only witness, and he is called to the stand. It is mentioned that he had earlier been in trouble with the law for disorderly conduct. Apparently, Tom used to go across Mayella’s house to Mr. Link Deas’ place to work on his yard. Mayella used to regularly ask him to do some minor chores for her. The other children used to always be around. On that particular day, she had called him in to repair a hinge of the door, which Tom, however, had found to be all right. On inquiring about the children, Mayella says that she had saved up some money so that she could send them to town for ice cream. When Tom climbed a chair to remove a box from atop the ‘chiffarobe’, Mayella had grabbed his legs, hugged him and even tried to kiss him. While he had been fighting her off, her father had entered. Tom had fled away in fear for his life. He insisted that he had not even laid a finger on Mayella, and definitely not raped her. In the middle of all this, Mr. Link Deas rises and proclaims loudly that Tom (while he had worked for him) had been no trouble to him at all. The judge ousts him out of the courtroom.

Tom does admit that he had helped Mayella out of pity for her. This remark is not liked by anyone in the courtroom.

Dill suddenly begins to cry, and Scout is made to take him out. They sit with Mr. Link Deas outside the courtroom, and Mr. Dolphus Raymond joins them.

Notes:
Through Tom’s relation of his version of the story, he comes across an honest, hardworking Negro, well mannered and always willing to help anyone in distress. Moreover, Mayella’s pathetic loneliness is poignantly portrayed. She is a girl seeking love and attention, and Tom is the only visible source of any affection that she could hope for.

Tom’s fleeing from the house is by itself a sure sign of guilt otherwise, but here he insists that being a Negro and getting caught in such a situation would surely spell deep trouble, and so he had been forced to run away.

The case turns against Tom the moment he confesses that he had felt pity for Mayella. However poor she is, the basic fact is that she is still a white, and it was considered too forthright of Tom to feel pity for her.

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TheBestNotes Staff. "TheBestNotes on To_Kill_A_Mockingbird_Study_Guide". TheBestNotes.com. . 09 May 2017
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