What "mistake" did Tom Robinson make on the stand when he stated that he felt sorry for Mayella Ewell?
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The idea that a black person could feel sorry for a white person refutes all of Maycomb's social assumptions, making Tom's courthouse comment extremely provocative. By nature, black life is thought to be inferior to white life, making Tom's feelings towards Mayella subvert everything that the town's social fabric is based upon. As Jem explains in chapter 23, every class looks down upon the class below it - so black people, as the lowest class, should not feel pity for anyone.