To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Justice and Judgment Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (chapter.paragraph)
As Judge Taylor banged his gavel, Mr. Ewell was sitting smugly in the witness chair, surveying his handiwork. With one phrase he had turned happy picknickers into a sulky, tense, murmuring crowd, being slowly hypnotized by gavel taps lessening in intensity until the only sound in the courtroom was a dim pink-pink-pink: the judge might have been rapping the bench with a pencil. (17.95)
The courtroom spectators get what they came for with Mr. Ewell: sex, scandal, and hate-mongering. Notice how Judge Taylor calms them down by "hypnotizing" them. This isn't a crowd ready to listen to reason. (Let's put it this way—we wouldn't want to see them anywhere near a Wal-Mart on Black Friday morning.)
"It was just him I couldn't stand," Dill said. […] "That old Mr. Gilmer doin' him thataway, talking so hateful to him—[…] It was the way he said it made me sick, plain sick. […] 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." (19.155-165)
Poor Dill. He picks up on the ugly injustice of Mr. Gilmer's questioning, and he's too much of a kid to accept it. Does he notice because he's an outsider? Or is he, like Atticus, naturally sensitive to injustice?
"She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: she is white. She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted in breaking it." (20.43)
It's an enormous injustice to have Tom on trial and pre-convicted for something he didn't do. But Mayella is also a victim of injustice: dirt poor, kept ignorant, raped by her father, and forbidden to seek companionship from the one person who was ever nice to her. No surprise that Atticus is the one to see it.