Does Atticus really believe people are created equal, or does he just say this as a strategy to influence the jury? Does he tell the jury this for another reason? Explain. 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think Atticus, from what we have seen of him over the course of the story, certainly thinks that a person's skin color does not make him or her better or worse than another person. However, he deliberately interrogates the idea of true equality because he knows already that the jury to whom he is speaking does not necessarily share his view—they are inclined towards racial prejudice. By interrogating the Jeffersonian ideal that all men are indeed created equal, Atticus shows them that he is a thinking, reasonable person, who has understood that the jury themselves may feel that they have suffered from their circumstances of birth—some people are created cleverer than others; some are wealthier; some are black and some are white, and this makes us different. However, Atticus is trying to play upon the jury's pride and sense of themselves as Americans by stating that at least here, in the court room, all people should indeed be viewed as equal. He says that people are equal before the law, not because he really believes that people are actually treated that way in practice, but in order to try and prevail upon these people's sense of justice to be better than their prejudices may tell them and make a fair decision.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During Atticus' closing remarks, he explains to the jury Mayella's motivation for falsely accusing Tom Robinson of assaulting and raping her and also addresses the significant prejudice against African Americans throughout the community of Maycomb. Atticus concludes his final remarks by commenting on Thomas Jefferson's famous words that "all men are created equal." Atticus mentions that he finds Jefferson's assumption that all men are created equal to be ridiculous. He goes on to say that people vary in different ways from intelligence to opportunity. Atticus then comments that there is one institution where every man is viewed and treated equally. He then mentions that the United States' court system is the only place where all men are considered equal. He goes to say that a court is only as good as its jury and urges each jury member to judge Tom Robinson's case without prejudice.

Atticus mentions that all men are created equal in a court of law to influence the jury's decision. He wants them to treat Tom Robinson equally and not let their prejudiced beliefs get in the way of their judgment.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial