Vingt mille lieues sous les mers
par Jules Verne
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The next day, Tom Robinson's trial begins. Many people come to Maycomb from other towns and cities throughout the county. Just about everyone makes an appearance in the courtroom except for Miss Maudie, who refuses to go to the trial. She says it is like attending a Roman carnival, and she is not interested in seeing that take place. The crowd is so large that there really is nowhere for everyone to eat lunch, so they all camp out in the town square. After lunch, Dill, Jem, and Scout wait for most of the people in the crowd to go inside the courthouse. Then they sneak in the back so Atticus does not see them and send them home. They wait longer than they should, though, and that means that they do not have anywhere to sit. The Reverend from Calpurnia's church lets them into the balcony where black people have to sit in order to be allowed to see the trial. From those seats, the children are able to see the entire courtroom, so they will not miss a thing. Judge Taylor is presiding over Tom Robinson's case. He is an old man who has a strong reputation for having a very informal courtroom.
This chapter is really quite pivotal, because it marks the end of innocence for Jem and Scout, and the opportunity to grow and develop. That is not always a good thing, of course, because it can be hard for a person to see the value of growth and change. It is often painful, and is going to prove that way for the children – especially Jem. However, this chapter also paves the way for the rest of the story and how the children relate to others as they move toward their own adulthood.
Mr. Gilmer, who is prosecuting the case, questions Sheriff Tate. Tate recalls how Bob Ewell urged him to go to his house, and said that Mayella was raped. Sheriff Tate went to the Ewell house and observed that Mayella was bruised. She appeared to have been beaten, and she said that she had been raped by Tom Robinson. Atticus cross-examines Tate, who says that there was no doctor summoned to examine Mayella. He noted that the majority of her bruises were on her face, on the right side. After that testimony, Tate is allowed to leave the stand. Bob Ewell is the next person called as a witness. Ewell lives behind the town garbage dump. His home is a cabin with a tin roof, and the yard is full of all kinds of trash. No one is completely certain how many children Ewell actually has. There is one corner of the Ewell's yard that is neat and orderly. It has geraniums growing in it, that Mayella cares for.
Ewell says that he was collecting kindling in the woods and was almost home when he heard Mayella yelling. He got to the house and saw through the window that Tom Robinson was raping her. Robinson ran, and Ewell went inside. He saw that Mayella was all right, so he ran to get Sheriff Tate. When Atticus cross-examines Ewell, he asks about the lack of doctor. Ewell says there was no need for one, and that it was too expensive. Atticus then asks Ewell to write down his name. This allows the jury to see that Ewell is left-handed. Someone who is left-handed would be more likely to leave bruises on the right side of a person's face if he was beating that person. Atticus is working hard to show that Mayella was involved in a consensual act, or no act at all, with Tom Robinson, and that she was caught by her father, who then beat her for what she was doing, or thinking about doing.
The divide between blacks and whites in Maycomb is most obvious in this particular chapter. Rape is a serious charge, but because Tom is black he is generally perceived to be instantly guilty. There is very little room for an opinion other than guilt. While Atticus knows this, he hopes to get the townspeople of Maycomb to examine themselves a bit more closely, instead of always assuming that white are right and blacks are wrong. The days of seeing all blacks as criminals need to come to an end, and Atticus is doing his part in working toward that, although he knows it will take more than his work at Tom Robinson's trial.
As the trial continues, the entire town is fascinated by it. Tom Robinson's guilt or innocence – and what will happen to him either way – has captivated everyone. Mayella, the alleged victim, is the next person to testify. She is nineteen years old, clearly scared, and much cleaner and politer than her father and the majority of her siblings. She testifies that she asked Tom Robinson to tear down a dresser for her, and offered to pay him a nickel to do the job. She let him into the house, and he grabbed her. Then he forced himself on her and took advantage. Atticus cross-examines her, and she talks about her seven siblings, none of whom help her with anything, her father, who is nearly always drunk, and the fact that she does not have any friends. Atticus wants to know why she failed to put up any more of a fight to avoid the rape, and why her cries for help did not cause the other children to come running to see what was the matter with their sister.
The most important part of Atticus' line of questioning revolves around how Tom Robinson actually managed to commit the crime. When Tom was a boy, his left hand was badly damaged and torn apart in an accident with a cotton gin. Because that was the case, that hand is currently useless. Bruising the right side of Mayella's face would have been virtually impossible for him. Atticus asks Mayella to be honest, and admit that there was no rape and that what happened was consensual. He wants her to admit that her father caught her and beat her, and that is where her bruises came from. She yells at him, and says that only cowards would fail to convict Tom of the crime. Then she starts to cry and will not answer anything else asked of her. There is a recess after her outburst. During that time Mr. Underwood sees that Atticus' children are in the balcony with the black people. He does not tell on them, though, and just lets them stay where they are. They wonder if they will end up in the newspaper. After the recess the prosecution rests. Atticus calls Tom Robinson to the stand. Tom will be Atticus' only defense witness.
Showing how easily Mayella breaks down, how lonely she is, and how Tom's damaged hand could not be effectively used to create the bruises she has is part of Atticus' strategy to show that Tom is innocent. While Atticus realizes that the jury will still most likely find Tom Robinson guilty, he also realizes that the only way to start race relations moving in the right direction is to stand up for what is true and fair and honest. Anyone can see that the facts point strongly to Tom Robinson's innocence, regardless of the color of his skin. There is nothing more that Atticus can do, other than present the facts and encourage people to think for themselves about those facts.
Tom tells the courtroom about how he always goes past the Ewell house on his way to work and back each day. Quite often, Mayella stops him and asks for his help with some chores. On the evening in which the alleged rape occurred, she asked that he come inside to fix a door. He went in, and saw that there was nothing wrong with any of the doors in the house. He also saw that the other children were not there. Mayella told him she had saved her money up so that the children could all go and get some ice cream. She then asked that he get a box down from on top of a dresser. When Tom climbed onto the chair, Mayella grabbed his legs. It frightened him, and he jumped down from the chair. She then grabbed his waist and wanted him to kiss her. She struggled with Tom, trying to get him to do what she wanted, and her father looked in the window. He threatened to kill his daughter and called her a whore. Tom broke free of Mayella's grasp and ran.
At that time, Tom's employer, Link Deas, stood up and announced to the courtroom that he had never had any kind of problem from Tom in the eight years he has worked for his company. The judge expels Deas for his interruption. Mr. Gilmer than cross-examines Tom, and he brings up Tom's past arrest for disorderly conduct. He also gets him to admit that he is strong enough to choke a woman and throw her to the floor, even with only one good hand. He starts badgering Tom, and wanting to know why he was always so willing to help Mayella with chores. When Tom says that he felt sorry for Mayella, the courtroom becomes an uncomfortable place. In Maycomb, it is not acceptable for black people to feel sorry for white people. Mr. Gilmer goes over Mayella's testimony and accuses Tom of lying about all of the information he just provided. Dill starts crying, and he and Scout go outside. Dill says that Mr. Gilmer is rude to Tom, and as the two children are walking around, they meet up with Mr. Dolphus Raymond. He is rich and white, but he lives with a black mistress. They have several mulatto children together. Everyone in town thinks he is a drunk.
This is where the case turns strongly against Tom, because he says that he helped out Mayella Ewell because he felt sorry for her. Even though she is clearly a person to be pitied and the reader can see that throughout the trial, that time and place does not allow for a black person to pity a white person. It is simply not acceptable. Running from the scene also makes him look guilty, but as a black man he was very frightened at what would be assumed about him if he did not run. It is difficult to say, at that time, whether running made things worse, or whether he would have appeared guiltier if he would have remained in the house to explain the situation to Bob Ewell.
Mr. Raymond shows the children the paper sack he has. He is drinking from a bottle hidden in the sack. He talks to Dill and agrees that the prosecutor is not treating Tom well. He offers Dill a drink, and Dill agrees to try some. Scout tells him that he should not take too much, but Dill drinks and then tells Scout that it is not anything but Coca-Cola. They children are amazed and do not understand. They always thought that Mr. Raymond drank alcohol all the time. Everyone thinks that. Mr. Raymond says that he only pretends to be a drunk. That way other white people have an excuse they can make for his lifestyle, but he just prefers the company of black people and the way they treat one another, instead of the racism and prejudice that he sees so often in his white peers.
Dill and Scout take that information and go back into the courtroom to watch the rest of the trial. They get back just in time to see Atticus making closing remarks. He goes over all the evidence, and then appeals to the jury personally. He addresses the fact that there is absolutely no medical evidence of any kind of crime. There is only shaky testimony from two witnesses who are not considered to be reliable. The physical evidence does not suggest that Mayella Ewell was raped by Tom Robinson. It indicates that she was beaten by her father. Then Atticus offers his own opinion of what happened. He says that Mayella is alone and unhappy. She begins to lust after Tom, and because Tom is black that is something her father cannot tolerate. When she was caught by her father, she was beaten. Then, they agreed they would say that Tom raped her. That would help Mayella hide her shame of lust, and she would not be looked down upon for wanting a black man. Atticus asks that the jury not assume all black people are criminal, which is the way the prosecution is trying to portray Tom and his brethren. Justice should be delivered, and that justice should involve letting Tom Robinson go free. He is an innocent man. Just as Atticus wraps up his remarks, Calpurnia enters the courtroom.
Mr. Raymond provides an important lesson for the children, in that some people pretend to be something they are not. He does this so that people will leave him alone, and he can live his life in the way he chooses. Without giving the impression that he was a drunk, he would he questioned all the time about why he prefers the company of black people. Truthfully, he does not like most white people and the way they treat others. He prefers black people because they are less judgmental based on things like social class and money.Inscrivez-vous pour trouver des essais sur Jules Verne >