To Kill a Mockingbird

A 25-year-old black man whom Atticus defends in a court case against the Ewells. Bob Ewell claims that his daughter, Mayella, was raped by Tom. However, Tom is kind, a churchgoer, and a married father of three, as well as a beloved member of the black community in Maycomb and a good employee of Mr. Deas. Atticus makes the case that Tom, who got his left arm caught in a cotton gin as a child and can’t use it as a result, couldn’t have strangled and beaten a woman with only one arm. In his testimony, Tom speaks about the impossible situation Mayella put him in when she hugged and kissed him. Being a black man, he couldn’t have pushed her away or forcibly removed himself—though running was his only choice, it made him look as though he was guilty of something more. Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence against Tom, the jury ultimately convicts him as guilty of rape. In prison, guards shoot and kill Tom when he tries to escape over a fence.

Tom Robinson Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird

The To Kill a Mockingbird quotes below are all either spoken by Tom Robinson or refer to Tom Robinson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Warner Books edition of To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.
Chapter 9 Quotes

“If you shouldn't be defendin' him, then why are you doin' it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

[…]

"Atticus, are we going to win it?"

“No, honey.”

“Then why—”

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Tom Robinson
Page Number: 86-87
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

“Atticus, you must be wrong…”

“How's that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong…”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Tom Robinson
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 19 Quotes

“If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?”

“Like I says before, it weren't safe for any nigger to be in a—fix like that.”

“But you weren't in a fix—you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she'd hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?”

“No suh, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now.”

“Scared of arrest, scared you'd have to face up to what you did?”

“No suh, scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do.”

Related Characters: Tom Robinson (speaker), Mr. Gilmer (speaker), Bob Ewell, Mayella Ewell
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
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“The way that man called him 'boy' all the time an' sneered at him, an' looked around at the jury every time he answered— … It ain't right, somehow it ain't right to do 'em that way. Hasn't anybody got any business talkin' like that—it just makes me sick.”

Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 22 Quotes

“They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep.”

Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 25 Quotes

Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.

Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 275-76
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tom Robinson Character Timeline in To Kill a Mockingbird

The timeline below shows where the character Tom Robinson appears in To Kill a Mockingbird. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
With a sigh, Atticus says he’s defending a black man named Tom Robinson, and some believe that he shouldn’t defend Tom. Scout asks why he took the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
...never hunts, drinks, or smokes. Despite how innocuous he seems, everyone talks about him defending Tom Robinson. People tease Scout after she commits herself to “a policy of cowardice.” He refuses... (full context)
Chapter 11
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...worse come summer. Scout points out that Atticus might be wrong about needing to defend Tom, since everyone else thinks he’s wrong. Atticus says he needs to do this to live... (full context)
Chapter 12
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...Reverend Sykes makes announcements and says that the collection this week will go to Helen, Tom Robinson’s wife. Zeebo comes to the front of the church to lead the first hymn.... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...find work as Calpurnia leads her away. Scout peppers Calpurnia with questions and learns that Tom is in jail because Bob Ewell accused him of raping his daughter. Scout remembers how... (full context)
Chapter 14
Growing Up Theme Icon
...but Jem insists that they need to think about how preoccupied Atticus is with the Tom Robinson case. His superiority angers Scout. When he threatens to spank her, she calls him... (full context)
Chapter 15
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...has everything to lose and Atticus asks if he really thinks that. He says that Tom might go to the chair, but he has to tell the truth. The men move... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...the Maycomb Tribune who never leaves his linotype. Atticus shares with Scout that they’ve moved Tom to the Maycomb jail. At suppertime, Atticus comes in carrying an extension cord with a... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...asks if they can go home. Atticus wipes his face and blows his nose as Tom asks if the men left. Atticus assures him that the men won’t bother him now,... (full context)
Chapter 16
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...Atticus does nothing but read, and one notes that the court appointed Atticus to defend Tom. Another says disapprovingly that Atticus is taking it seriously. This is new, confusing information for... (full context)
Chapter 17
Prejudice Theme Icon
...court. Mr. Tate gives his account of what happened: Mr. Ewell called him out because Tom raped his daughter. Mr. Tate found Mayella beaten up on the floor and she identified... (full context)
Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
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...arrived home to hear Mayella screaming. He says he looked in the window to see Tom raping Mayella. He stands and points to Tom as he says this, and the court... (full context)
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...the questioning going again. Mr. Ewell says he saw the room in disarray and recognized Tom. He then asks that Judge Taylor clean out the black settlement that devalues his property,... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
...Atticus is making the case that Mr. Ewell could’ve beaten Mayella, but she thinks that Tom may also be left-handed. (full context)
Chapter 18
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...Ewell had asked her to chop up a “chiffarobe” (dresser) for firewood, but she asked Tom to do it for a nickel instead. She went inside to get the money and... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
...beaten her. Atticus turns to the case and asks about Mayella’s injuries. She says that Tom both did and didn’t hit her. (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Atticus asks Mayella to identify her rapist, so she points at Tom. Atticus asks Tom to stand, and Scout sees that Robinson’s left arm is a foot... (full context)
Chapter 19
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Atticus calls Tom to the stand. With Atticus’s questioning, Tom says that he’s 25, has three children, and... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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...Mr. Raymond, who can spend time with black people because he’s wealthy. Scout thinks that Tom was probably the only person to ever be kind to her. She listens to him... (full context)
Prejudice Theme Icon
Tom says that the Ewell place seemed quiet. He entered the yard at Mayella’s invitation and... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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Courage Theme Icon
Tom insists he didn’t rape Mayella, and that he ran because he was scared—being black, he... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
...oak tree. Dill says that he couldn’t stand the way that Mr. Gilmer spoke to Tom, calling him “boy” and sneering. Scout points out that Tom is “just a Negro,” but... (full context)
Chapter 20
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...addresses the jury like he might address friends and says that this case is easy. Tom isn’t guilty, but someone is. He says that Mayella is guilty. She hasn’t committed a... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
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...review the evidence and come to the right choice. He implores the jury to believe Tom. Dill points. Scout sees Calpurnia heading for Atticus. (full context)
Chapter 21
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...moved. Reverend Sykes shares that Judge Taylor seemed like he may have been leaning toward Tom’s side. Jem confidently announces that they’ll win and then offers his own ideas of how... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...told Atticus to shoot Tim Johnson. Mr. Tate returns and calls the court to order. Tom returns, along with the jury, and Scout notices that the jury doesn’t look at Tom—a... (full context)
Chapter 22
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...out that the black neighborhood, Mr. Tate, and Judge Taylor stepped up—Judge Taylor didn’t give Tom’s case to the newest lawyer, for instance. Miss Maudie insists that she knew Atticus wasn’t... (full context)
Chapter 23
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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A few weeks later, Atticus discuss Tom’s case with Scout and Jem. He explains that Tom is at a prison farm 70... (full context)
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...is secret. He says that men don’t like to declare themselves and Jem mutters that Tom’s jury decided quickly. (full context)
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...that that’s not true—it took much longer than usual, and a Cunningham wanted to acquit Tom. Jem yelps, but Atticus says that the Cunninghams are loyal once you earn their loyalty.... (full context)
Chapter 24
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
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...desegregation efforts as Scout thinks that if she were the Governor of Alabama, she’d let Tom go. She remembers hearing Calpurnia talking the other day about how Tom gave up hope... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...toddler. Helen collapsed before Atticus said anything. Scout says that Maycomb was only interested in Tom’s death for two days, and many believed that he showed his true colors when he... (full context)
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Following Tom’s death, Mr. Underwood wrote a bitter article about how it’s a sin to kill disabled... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...of Scout’s worries, however, since classmates still taunt Scout and Jem about Atticus’s role in Tom’s case. Scout decides that people are strange, since they still reelect Atticus to the state... (full context)