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To Kill a Mockingbird | Discussion Questions 71 - 80


At Tom Robinson's trial and in Chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird, why do Jem, Scout, and Dill sit in the African American section of the courthouse?

It does not strike Jem, Scout, and Dill as something they shouldn't do, but it speaks volumes to some of the white population of Maycomb. Some, such as Stephanie Crawford, speculate that the children have been put up to sitting there.

In Chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird after Atticus establishes that Bob Ewell is left-handed, what does Mr. Gilmer, the solicitor, ask Ewell to defuse that revelation?

In cross-examining the Ewells Atticus establishes that the right side of Mayella Ewell's face sustained the most injury, which would suggest her attacker was left-handed (Tom Robinson has a mangled left hand). When Atticus then establishes that Bob Ewell is a left-handed man, it is an important point. Mr. Gilmer, in an attempt to redirect the damage Atticus has done, asks Bob Ewell if he is ambidextrous. Ewell replies that he can "use one hand good as the other."

In Chapter 18 of To Kill a Mockingbird when Mayella Ewell breaks into tears on the witness stand, who does she say she is afraid of?

In a behavior that seems contrived, Mayella Ewell takes the stand and almost immediately breaks into tears. When the judge tries to dispel her fears about testifying, she tells him she is afraid of Atticus. If we consider what Atticus stands for—that he might be symbolic of justice and the pursuit of truth—the interaction might suggest she is afraid of Atticus because most everything that she is about to say is false.

In Chapter 18 of To Kill a Mockingbird what does Tom Robinson's taking the stand make clear to the court?

When Tom Robinson takes the stand it is immediately apparent from his physical challenges—he has a mangled left arm and hand—that he would be incapable of committing the crime in the way the Ewells describe it.

In Chapter 19 of To Kill a Mockingbird when Tom Robinson testifies, what does he reveal about Mayella Ewell's relationship with her father, Bob Ewell?

During his testimony Tom Robinson recounts conversations that took place between him and Mayella Ewell on several different occasions. In one such conversation Mayella told Tom that she'd never kissed a grown man before. Tom added, "She says what her papa do to her don't count," thereby revealing the abuse Bob Ewell afflicts on his daughter.

In Chapter 19 of To Kill a Mockingbird what does it suggest about Mayella's intent that she sent her siblings to town on the day of the alleged rape?

She tells Tom that she saved an entire year in order to be able to send her brothers and sisters into town for ice cream. It suggests that she was consciously planning (and hoping) for the opportunity to be alone with Tom.

In Chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird why do Scout and Dill leave the courtroom while Mr. Gilmer is giving his closing argument?

In Chapter 20 Dill is overcome by the way Mr. Gilmer is treating Tom Robinson on the stand; he finds Gilmer's behavior hateful and is overcome by emotion because of it. Dolphus Raymond says that in a few years Dill may still find that some things don't seem right, but that he will no longer get so emotional: "Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry."

In Chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird what do Scout and Dill discover that Dolphus Raymond carries in the brown paper bag from which he frequently drinks?

When Dill and Scout leave the courtroom for a breather, they come upon Dolphus Raymond in the town square. Although the townspeople think he is a drunk, Dolphus Raymond is drinking Coca-Cola from the brown paper bag that he regularly carries. He allows the townspeople to think he is a drunk; in their minds that explains why Raymond goes against society by living with a black woman and fathering children with her.

In Chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird what interrupts Tom Robinson's trial?

In Chapter 21 the trial is interrupted as Calpurnia appears in court. The fact that Calpurnia interrupts the trial to pass a note to Atticus reminds the reader of what a small community Maycomb is. The time and setting are such that most everyone still knows everyone else. They know a lot—maybe too much—about each other's business, and they know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Those aspects of a small town can be assets, as this moment attests; they can also be a detriment when overlaid with prejudice or racism. The note says that Atticus's children are missing, but Braxton Underwood tells the court that the children are seated in the "colored balcony" balcony along with the supportive members of the black community.

In Chapter 22 of To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus and the children finally arrive home, where is Aunt Alexandra?

When Atticus and the children arrive home they find that Aunt Alexandra has waited up for them. Although this is a simple gesture, it suggests that she cares about her brother, niece, and nephew—and, perhaps, even a bit about the matters for which they are fighting.

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