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Prejudice is a strong word. In the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, a black man, Tom Robinson, was accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell, and was brought to trial. There were distinct views concerning Tom Robinson's innocence – views influenced by prejudice. The townspeople of Maycomb believed in Tom's guilt while Atticus and the children believed in Tom's innocence.
The townspeople, from day one, knew what the verdict was going to be even though some of them knew deep down that Tom did not rape Mayella. "The older citizens, the present generation of people who had lived side by side for years and years, were utterly predictable to one another: they took for granted attitudes, character shadings, even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined by time" (Lee page #). The townspeople didn't like black people at all. They were two different kinds of people according to them, and the fact that a white man would stand up for a black man in that town got them very upset. "Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That's what I don't like about it" (Lee page #). The townspeople viewed this case as a circus. "It was a gala occasion. There was no room at the public hitching trail for another animal, mules and wagons were parked under every available tree. The courthouse square was covered with picnic parties sitting on newspapers, washing down biscuit and syrup with warm milk from fruit jars" (Lee page #). This was more like entertainment for the townspeople. This was fun for them, talking with friends, having lunch, and joking. It was really sad that they were so prejudiced against the black people.
Atticus was unable to bring about a just verdict because he was in a very prejudiced court and, regardless of the proof, the outcome would still be the same. Atticus knew that Tom Robinson would be found guilty. The victim, Mayella, had been beaten, but not by Tom. Tom Robinson would still be convicted because of the all-white jury. Tom didn't help by saying, "Yes suh. I felt sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n the rest of 'em--" (Lee page #). After all, black people were not supposed to care about white people. It would have been impossible for Tom to do to Mayella what she said he did: "Tom Robinson's powerful shoulders rippled with his right hand on the back of his chair.
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The children, just as much as Atticus, believed in Tom's innocence. Just by looking at Tom, they knew he couldn't have done it " ‘Scout,’ breathed Jem. ‘Scout, look! Reverend, he's crippled‘ ” (Lee page #). Jem and Scout had been brought up by Atticus to believe in fairness to people, regardless of their race or color:
Do you defend niggers, Atticus?
Of course I do. Don’t say nigger,
Scout. That's common.
That's what everybody at school says.
From now on it'll be everybody less one-- (Lee page #).
Scout and Jem were not prejudiced; they were the only white people other than Dill to sit in the balcony with the black people. Neither Scout nor Jem could believe the injustice in the courtroom; just because a man is black he will get the bad side of everything.
Prejudice is a strong word; it is as black as the night, as black as the soul of a small town called Maycomb. Tom Robinson is a black man who was found guilty of a rape he didn't commit. Atticus did all he could to defend Tom, even with the town on his case and in spite of the threats he had received. The children saw injustice and were saddened by the sight of man’s inhumanity to man. The townspeople didn't really care about Tom because of his color and never even gave him a chance because he was black.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. Place of publication: publisher, year published.