It's a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird

This is an extract of To Kill a Mockingbird, written from Tom Robinson's point of view. In this scene, Tom is being temporarily held in the county prison before his trial for the crime of raping a white girl, a crime that he didn't commit.


1. A Great Man


Mr Atticus is a nice guy, but he won’t be able to do nuthin’ for me. Nice of him to try though, there’s no denyin’ that there’s a great man outside. Keepin’ watch on the poor Negro who raped a white girl.

    But I didn’t rape that girl.

    Mr Atticus is a great man.

    Strange thing is he’s just sittin’ casual reading the paper like nuthin’s the bother in all the wide world. Looks just the way daddy used to sit outside the shack to make sure no white folks come’n break down the door.

    Daddy was a great man, too.

    Somethin’ flashes in the side of my vision, but soon forgotten when I hear the sound of four sets o’ heavy tyres like none I could afford pull out around the corner. I hear ‘em before I see ‘em, but I still know what they are. It’s creepin’ up on me, the sickness, but it hits me like a torrent when I see the cars and I can’t help but double over. They’re comin’. Course I knew they would, just like Miss Jenny at the church said. Less of us die naturally than at the hands of the white folk.

    I pull myself up off the floor and peer outta the window, If I keep my eyes squeezed real tight, nearly shut, and my mouth closed, they won’t be able to see me.

    Mr Atticus folded his paper, pushed back his hat, but didn’t stand up.

    Somethin’ in the corner of my eye again, I paid it no mind, probable it’s just a lone rat tryn’a find his way back to the gutter.

    Men got out of the cars and swam in to view. I couldn’t have counted them if I tried, enough to overwhelm poor Mr Atticus. The men stood close to Mr Atticus, if you were stood somewhere else you might not be able to see him, just a mass o’ shadows. But I have the seat of the show.

    “He in there, Mr Finch?” a man asked. Oh Lord, the nausea seeps o’er me again an’ my sweaty hands lose their grip on the sill. I slide down the wall and curl up on the cold, hard concrete floor. A beetle crawls over my bare foot.

    “-asleep. Don’t wake him up.”

    Is that a joke?

    He, of all the men in Maycomb, knows that I am not asleep. I could never sleep. But the strangers… are talkin’ in whispers. Oh Mr Atticus, you are a great man.

    More talk, more talk, and after a while I forget to keep listenin’. The stranger’s voices are rough and hoarse, but Mr Atticus’ is smooth as a newborn babes’. I find myself bein’ lulled to sleep.

    But a voice, outta place. Too high, too shrill. Another, a shriek. Oh Lord no, there are children!

    “He-ey, Atticus!” Oh please, no please, I desp’rately climb back up to the window, feelin’ sicker than ever. It’s worse than hell, not bein’ able to do something,’ anythin’.

    There’s commotion, and it passes in a blur of hysteria, threats and pleas. A stranger grabbed a young’un, but another young’un, the girl I guess, is swift as a mockingbird and kicks him where I ain’t never been kicked before. Sure to hurt for a long while though.

    And, oh. For a reason I cannot fathom, the miss is talking to another man and… things aren’t quite so interestin’ or loud anymore so what can I do? But fall asleep or pass out.

    The strangers have gone.

    Atticus is a great man, with some great chillun to boot.

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