mockingbird chapter 35


I didn’t hear more of Mr. Gilmer’s cross-examination, because Jem made me take Dill out. For some reason Dill had started crying and couldn’t stop. When we went out and sat down under a tree, Dill told me that he couldn’t stand the attitude of Mr. Gilmer to Tom, it made him sick. I tried to explain to him that it was prosecutor’s job. I also said that most lawyers act that way with Negroes.

«Mr. Finch doesn’t.»

«He’s not an example, Dill, he’s-» I remembered what Miss Maudie Atkinson had said: «He’s the same in the courtroom as he is on the public streets.»

«That’s not what I mean,» said Dill.

«I know what you mean, boy,» said a voice behind us. It belonged to Mr. Dolphus Raymond. He was sitting on the other side of the tree trunk. «You aren’t thin-skinned, it just makes you sick, doesn’t it?»

«Come on round here, son, I got something that’ll help your stomach.»

He offered Dill his paper sack with straws in it. «Drink it, it’ll calm you.»

Jem said that Mr. Raymond had whiskey in that sack, so I told Dill to be careful. But Dill drank through the straws, smiled, and said, «Scout, it’s Coca-Cola.»

Mr. Raymond said, «You little folks won’t tell anybody, will you? It’d ruin my reputation if you did.»

I asked him why he made everybody believe that he drank whiskey through those straws all the time.

«It’s very simple,» he said. «Some folks don’t like the way I live. I could tell them to go to hell and say I don’t care if they don’t like it. I do say I don’t care if they don’t like it — but I don’t tell them to go to hell, understand?»

Dill and I didn’t understand.

«I try to give ’em a reason. It helps folks if they find a reason. When I come to town, and it’s seldom, if I sway a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey — that’s why he won’t change his ways. He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does. They could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live.»

«Why did you tell us your secret?» I asked.

«Because you’re children and you can understand it,» he said, «and because I heard that one-»

He jerked his head at Dill: «He’s still very young. Let him get a little older and he won’t get sick and cry. Maybe he’ll see that things are not quite right, but he won’t cry.»

«Cry about what, Mr. Raymond?» Dill asked.

«Cry about the real hell that people create for other people — without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people create for colored folks, and don’t even stop to think that they’re people, too.»

«Atticus says cheatin’ a colored man is ten times worse than cheatin’ a white man,» I muttered.

«Miss Jean Louise,» Mr. Raymond said, «you don’t know that your pa’s not a run-of-the-mill man, you’ll understand it in a few years — you haven’t seen enough of the world yet. You haven’t even seen this town, but you can go back inside the courthouse and see.»

We returned to our seats in the balcony.

Atticus was halfway through his speech to the jury. Mr. Gilmer had made his speech already.

Jem whispered, «We’re gonna win, Scout. I don’t see how we can’t. He’s been at it ’bout five minutes. He made it clear and easy to understand.»

We looked down. Atticus walked slowly up and down in front of the jury, and they were attentive: their heads were up, and they looked at him.

«Gentlemen,» he said. Jem and I looked at each other: Atticus was talking to the jury as if they were folks on the post office comer.

«Gentlemen,» he was saying, «I would like to remind you that this case is not difficult, it is as simple as black and white.

There are no complicated facts. This case should never have come to trial at all. The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has been shown during cross- examination as highly questionable, and has been absolutely contradicted by the defendant. The defendant is not guilty, but somebody in this courtroom is.

The chief witness for the state has a hard life and I have pity for her, but my pity stops at the fact that she wants to take a man’s life in an effort to rid herself of her own guilt.

I say guilt, gentlemen, because she was motivated by guilt. She has committed no crime, she has simply broken an old and severe code of our society, a code so severe that to break it is to become an outcast in our society. She is the victim of severe poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: she is white. She knew very well the great seriousness of her offense, but her desires were stronger than the code, and she broke it. And then she did something that every child has done — she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her. What was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson, a human being. She must put Tom Robinson away from her. What was her offense? She was white and she tempted a Negro. She thought nothing of the code and the offense until her father saw it.


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