To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee . Discussions Questions “The Trial” Ch. 17 - 21. Discussion Questions – Ch. 17. What does Atticus attempt to establish through Heck Tate’s testimony? There has been no medical confirmation of Mayella’s alleged assault.
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To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee Discussions Questions“The Trial”Ch. 17 - 21Discussion Questions – Ch. 17
  • What does Atticus attempt to establish through Heck Tate’s testimony?
  • There has been no medical confirmation of Mayella’s alleged assault.
  • Mayella’s attacker was left-handed since the majority of her injuries were on her right side according to Tate’s testimony.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 17
  • What devices does the author use to characterize the Ewells, especially Bob Ewell?
  • Direct explanation: The Ewells are directly described as being poor whether the economy is good or bad and that they have existed for generations off of welfare and county hand-outs.
  • Setting: By describing the Ewells home, the author establishes their characters. The Ewells live in an old, abandoned slave shack located at the edge of town in the dump. They live and eat out of the trash.
  • Reaction of other character(s): Scout describes Bob Ewell strutting to the stand like a “cocky” red rooster. He makes the majority of the people in the courtroom uncomfortable and nervous. Many people laugh at him when he speaks.
  • Character behavior and speech: Bob Ewell uses bad language, racial slurs and behaves disrespectfully in the courtroom.
  • Based on all of the characterization devices Harper Lee uses, the Ewells, especially Bob Ewell, are characterized as low-life, “trashy” people.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 17
  • What does Atticus attempt to establish through Bob Ewell’s testimony?
  • Atticus wants to reaffirm the fact that no one got Mayella a doctor after the alleged attack.
  • Also, the jury sees that Bob Ewell is left-handed and that he could have been the one that attacked Mayella.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 18
  • What does Mayella’s testimony add to the case?
  • Mayella’s testimony reveals her motivation for accusing Tom Robinson of the crime. Her reactions to Atticus’ questions and her answers depict a terrible, almost animalistic home-life where each person struggles to survive illness, hunger and abuse.
  • Atticus reveals Mayella’s loneliness to the jury which motivated her to seek out Tom for companionship.
  • Mayella has difficulty keeping her story straight.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 18
  • What startling revelation is made about Tom?
  • When Tom stands up, everyone in the court can see that he is crippled on his left side. His left arm is twelve inches shorter than his right arm and it hangs useless at his side, ending in a small, shriveled hand. He was injured as a child, picking cotton for Dolphus Raymond.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 19
  • Scout acquires an important realization during Tom’s testimony. Discuss the realization and its significance.
  • Witnessing the trial is a great exercise in empathy for Scout. As she listens she realizes that Mayella must be lonelier than Boo Radley, who has been isolated for 25 years. She also realizes that there are people who are caught by their own circumstances and don’t “fit in” anywhere in the world.
  • She understands that Tom was only trying to be nice to Mayella and that, for some people, kindess is so uncommon that they don’t know how to handle it and react with hostility.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 19
  • What tragic racial situation is illustrated in this chapter? How does it apply to the theme?
  • Scout is very aware of the divide between whites and blacks. She recognizes that because of it, Tom could only run as he did, which, unfortunately, makes him look guilty.
  • Scout understands that poverty plays a role as well. Tom Robinson was convicted of disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor) but because he couldn’t pay the fine, he had to serve time in jail, which Gilmer uses to imply Tom’s violent nature.
  • Gilmer’s condescending treatment of Tom is also very heavy with racial implications. Gilmer addresses Tom as “boy” and has a very hostile response to Tom’s confession that he felt sorry for Mayella. Gilmer pushes Tom to say that Mayella was lying in her testimony, but Tom only says she was “mistaken in her mind” because it was illegal for a black person to call into question the honesty of a white person.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 19
  • Why is it significant that Dill should be the one to get sick in the courtroom?
  • Dill is the outsider and a child, therefore human degradation is new and too overwhelming for him.
  • Jem doesn’t react because he is at a stage where he “intellectualizes” everything and Scout is still too literal.
  • To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper LeeCh. 20 – 21Discussion QuestionsDiscussion Questions – Ch. 20
  • What thematically related insights to Scout and Dill receive outside the courtroom?
  • Dill and Scout speak to Dolphus Raymond. From him, they learn that things are not always as they appear on the outside. Mr. Raymond explains that sometimes people are more comfortable in their thinking if they have reasons on which to hang their prejudices.
  • It is important to note that Mr. Raymond shares his deepest secret with Scout and Dill because they are children (innocence).
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 20
  • In reference to Dill, what pessimistic note does Dolphus Raymond cast? What is the implication of the remark?
  • Raymond predicts that when Dill gets older things may strike him as not being quite right, but he will not react as emotionally, which implies that children harden as they become adults and are less concerned and less compassionate with age.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 20
  • What is Atticus actually condemning in his closing remarks to the jury? What is the target of Atticus’ final plea?
  • Atticus is condemning the age-old, strict social code that creates haunting guilt in a person who breaks it making him/her go to great lengths to condemn another person in order to escape that personal guilt.
  • Atticus also condemns the idea that all blacks lie, are immoral and are not to be trusted with white women. He also condemns the denial of the one source of equality – the courtroom – through the presence of prejudice.
  • The target of Atticus’ final plea is the individual conscience of the jurors. He hopes to make them see Tom Robinson as an individual, not just a black man. Atticus wants the jurors to stand in Robinson’s shoes. He hopes to prevent mob-mentality in the jury room.
  • Discussion Questions – Ch. 21
  • How does Scout know the verdict before it is read? What is the broader implication of the jury’s behavior?
  • Scout notices that when the jury returns to the courtroom none of them look at Tom Robinson. As the child of a lawyer, she knows that a jury never looks at a defendant that they have convicted.
  • The broader implication is that there is a collective guilt they feel for their verdict.
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