Tom Robinson Suicide or Murder?
-Warning, does contain some spoilers from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Imagine you are walking down the street when you pass a young African American male. Seconds later the police car rounds the corner. The police jump out of the car and proceed to yell for the man to freeze. A struggle ensues. A minute later he is dead. Shot multiple times during the struggle, without a weapon or valid reason to back up the death. This story is not that far from that of Tom Robinson’s case in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Tom is accused of raping Ms. Mayella Ewell. The case is all cut short when he is killed while being held in jail. Atticus is told that Tom tried to escape and was shot in the process. Another possibility is that Tom did not try to escape. Tom trusted Atticus to help him win, he had a disability that prevented him from climbing the fence and the guards had plenty of reasons to kill him, one being they didn’t want him proven innocent, so why would he run?
One reason that Tom didn’t make an escape attempt is because he had full faith in Atticus. It was clear that Atticus had a large respect not only from Tom and his family, but from the Black community as well. Everyone looked up to him and believed that he would win the case or give it all he had at the least. The black communities respect for Atticus is demonstrated when they all bring him food and leave it on his porch. It is for that reason I doubt he would have risked making the escape when he thought Atticus could help him.
Another reason Tom wouldn’t run is because he knew he wouldn’t make it.Tom had a disability in his arm. “They said if he’d had two good arms he’d have made it, he was moving that fast.”(Harper Lee, 315). So even though he couldn’t make it because of his arm, it was practically impossible for him to make it over the fence. Tom was certainly intelligent enough to know that his chances of freedom were low if he took that route.
A third theory over Tom Robinson’s mysterious murder is that the guards had a motive to kill him. If Tom was pronounced innocent it would create a new standard in court, and a new hope for convicted African Americans. It could start the belief that blacks stand a chance in their fight for equality. It was quite clear that almost everyone in town despised African Americans. That was proven when the men from the area all gathered outside of the jail house to attack Tom Robinson.
This problem is still relevant today. Many cases of Police Officers shooting Black Men are still reported now. On Thursday December 24, an article was published to the New York Daily News describing the tragic death of one Kevin Mathews age 35. Though the case was complicated, it ended with a struggle in which Kevin who was unarmed was shot multiple times. Another similar story can be found on the Huffpost describing the sad story of Jamar Clark who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer. One witness by the name of Keisha Steele even said “The man was shot in cold blood while he had his hands behind his back.” (Kim Bellware, 1). It’s clear that these issues are not behind us.
Situations like that of the intri have happened many times. With all the combined evidence, and the knowledge that it has happened before, I am lead to believe that Tom did not attempt escape. He was intelligent, and kind and clearly just wanted the best for everyone. He proved to be the kind of man who doesn’t give up hope but, Tom was a deformed man who was completely unarmed and surrounded by men who had the opportunity and the motive to kill him. Situations like this still happen everyday. Tom Robinson is not the only one to go be killed in such an unfair matter. This is a problem we are still dealing with now.
Bellware, Kim. "Unarmed Man Shot by Minneapolis Police Officer Dies." Huffpost Politics. N.p., 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960. Print.
Schmidt, Michael S., and Matt Apuzzo. "South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder of Walter Scott." The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.