To Kill A Mockingbird

Question: Why did everybody in the courtroom go silent when Tom said that he did chores for Mayella because he felt sorry for her?

Chosen answer: At that time in history, Tom, a black man, was considered inferior to Mayella, a white woman. When he says he "felt sorry" for her, it is interpreted as him thinking he is above her or better off in some way. Regardless of his good intentions, for him to think of himself as being in a superior position to help her was considered unacceptable because it was seen as a black person rising above their lower place in society.

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