Tom Robinson’s Exhibitions of Courage

Over the last one-hundred years, American culture seems to have overall, become less racist and prejudiced. As a whole, U.S. society has not yet reached a period of total racial reformation in which trial and reason are always applied to the happenings of everyday life. Racism, prejudice, and stereotypes still abound. The ones who persevere through society’s harsh racist realities are the ones who demonstrate true courage, by exhibiting their internal intentions and external actions.

This courage can be found throughout To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The novel focuses on the trials and tribulations of racism of the U.S. in the 1930s through the perspective of a young white girl named Scout Finch, whose father is defending a black man against false claims of raping a white woman in a town where racism and segregation are still prevalent. Tom Robinson’s internal courage is important, because without it, he could not exhibit external courage.

Tom Robinson, the maliciously accused black man, is a true example of courage for Scout, her dad Atticus Finch, and the rest of Maycomb County. Tom Robinson exhibits the greatest amount of internal and external courage of all the characters in the novel by facing one of the cruelest types of personal and legal accusations anyone might have to endure in a public forum.

Tom Robinson’s ability to remain sedulous by expressing verbal courage externally and keeping his honesty and while dealing with rape accusations along with law enforcement, the accuser and her father, and every prejudice-minded individual in Maycomb County, demonstrates his courage under conditions nobody else in Maycomb has to undergo.

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During his trial, Tom Robinson expresses verbal perseverance, while being put in an intensely uncomfortable situation. He knows that the jury is surveying him steadily and takes notice of the odds for himself being proven innocent are grim. He is trying to prove his side of the story, which specifically means he is contradicting what the accuser had previously stated, almost if not completely. During his trial, his accuser, Mayella Ewell, had stated that Tom Robinson was the individual who took advantage of her, in a mendacious manner, and fibs her testimony. Now that Tom is giving his testimony, he realizes that it may not be worth telling his side of the story, the truth, to the court. Yet despite the seemingly hopeless situation, he continues to hold his ground to what he firmly believes in. “Scared of arrest, scared you’d have to face up to what you did?… No suh, scared of what I’d have to face up to what I didn’t do” (Lee 265). Not giving into the accusations made against him, Tom Robinson demonstrates external courage by persisting through societal pressures and using honesty the entire time, even when his testimony becomes embarrassing to discuss publicly.

Tom’s courage relies on integrity because he has the heart to exemplify a kind of courage that allows him to treat someone with courtesy and sympathy, only to have that same person respond with false accusations and prejudiced testimony conveniently, because Tom is a colored man, therefore he lacks respect from others in the community. Tom Robinson’s ability to comprehend another’s situation, in this case his accuser Mayella, demonstrates internal courage. Tom Robinson knew about his accuser, Mayella Ewell’s situation beforehand (before the trial). She is a nineteen-year-old woman who never left the house, and she was burdened with the responsibility of completing all the household chores. She has many younger siblings, who are not disciplined enough to aid her in her daily duties. Mayella lacked love, attention, and friendship. “No suh, not after she offered me a nickel the first time. I was glad to do it, Mr. Ewell didn’t seem to help her none, and I knowed she didn’t have no nickels to spare” (Lee 256) Courage is vibrant in this situation because Tom Robinson let his internal intentions envelop themselves within integrity. He never asked for anything in return for any of the deeds Mayella requested of him because he knew of her situation. This acknowledgment paves the path for integral courage, the ability to do the right thing. He continued to keep this mindset beforehand and during his trial, where he is accused of false rape accusations.

Before and after the rape charges, Tom demonstrated the courage to go against society’s segregational norms by acknowledging, speaking to, and aiding a white woman in the confines of her own home. When Tom Robinson set foot on Ewell grounds, he broke the societal standard of segregation and disregarded race and prejudice as he aided Mayella with some of her chores. Along with this, he trudges through a reign of terror and prejudice that would soon follow his life afterwards. “Why, yes suh, I’d tip m’hat when I go by and one day she asked me to come inside the fence and bust up a chiffarobe… She’d call me in, suh. Seemed like everytime I passed by yonder she’d have some little somethin’ for me to do—choppin’ kindlin’, totin’ water for her” (Lee 255-256). The gesture of tipping his hat when he would pass by Mayella Ewell, indicated that Tom Robinson always had courteous intentions of treating her with respect. By Tom offering to help Mayella, a white woman, by helping her with household chores out of his out his own kindness and volition as a black man, represents courage because segregation encourages these two races to stray away from interacting with each other. Importantly, the moment where Tom enters the Ewell household represents courage, along with conversing with a white woman, which is socially unacceptable in Maycomb. While segregation is set in place, Tom exhibits courage by risking judgment and shame because a white woman could easily tell a white lie about any black man, he could face death for it.

Tom Robinson demonstrates a substantial amount of courage as internal and external courage, while being wrongly persecuted in a public setting, which is reasonably one of the worst situations that anyone could ever endure. These demonstrations of courage led by a fictional character, incorporates itself into society. If society can adapt to these forms of courage, such as verbal, integral, and societal courage; then it will allow society to improve themselves. Modern culture can improve if these types of bravery assimilate into the hearts and minds of society and its prominent figures. As society progresses to eradicate stereotypes and racism, through courage, bravery, and courtesy, it will figuratively, meet the same likenesses as Tom Robinson.

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