What is the thematic concept of the novel based on Atticus' closing argument in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Harper Lee touches on most of her main themes of To Kill a Mockingbird during Atticus' highly dramatic and moving summation to the jury at the end of the Tom Robinson trial. Among them are

  • Prejudice and Intolerance.  Atticus begs the jury to disregard Tom's color and make their decision from the facts presented.
  • Guilt and Innocence.  Atticus has seemingly proven his case, showing that Tom could not have committed the crimes of which he is charged. Instead of Tom, Atticus says, someone else present in the courtroom (either Mayella and/or Bob Ewell) is the guilty party.
  • Courage and Cowardice.  Atticus shows courage taking the case, and he makes it clear that Bob Ewell and his daughter are the true cowards here.
  • Knowledge and Ignorance.  Atticus has presented his case, and he hopes that the jury will use this knowledge to bring back a fair verdict. He is aware, however, that many of the jurors will turn a deaf ear to the testimony, and revert to the ignorant viewpoint that a white man's word always supercedes the word of a black man.



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