To Kill a Mockingbird

by: Harper Lee

Chapters 18–19

Link Deas represents the diametric opposite of prejudice. The fact that Tom is black doesn’t factor into Deas’s assessment of him; rather, he is particularly conscientious about scrutinizing Tom only in respect to his individual character. However, just as the court refuses to accept the undeniable implications of the evidence that Atticus presents, so too does it refuse to accept the implications of Deas’s validation of Tom’s character. The judge expels Deas because his interjection during the proceedings threatens the integrity of the formal manner in which court proceedings are run; the grim irony, of course, is that the blatant prejudice of the trial does so as well, though the judge does nothing to alleviate this prejudice.

The reader is spared much of Mr. Gilmer’s harsh cross-examination of Tom when Dill’s crying takes Scout out of the courtroom. Dill is still a child, and he responds to wickedness with tears, much as the reader responds to Mr. Gilmer’s unabashed prejudice with disgust. The small sample of his cross-examination that Scout and the reader do hear is enough. Calling Tom “boy” and accusing him at every turn, the racist Mr. Gilmer believes that Tom must be lying, must be violent, must lust after white women—simply because he is black.


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