The author, Harper Lee, makes many observations about life and human nature through the speech and thoughts of several characters.Examine Atticus's final speech in the courtroom (Chapter 20)....

The author, Harper Lee, makes many observations about life and human nature through the speech and thoughts of several characters.

Examine Atticus's final speech in the courtroom (Chapter 20). What are Lee's views or struggles with life and human nature as seen in Atticus's final speech? Give examples from the text of the speech that supports these views.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    As Atticus begins his final summation during the Tom Robinson trial in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, "he did something he didn't ordinarily do. He unhitched is watch and chain and placed them on the table." Atticus was making a visible attempt to appeal to the common man by reducing himself to a more basic human level. His speech would concentrate on trying to convince the jury--average members of the community--that he and his client were like them. It was the Ewells that were the misfits and the guilty parties, not Tom Robinson.

"This case is as simple as black and white."

Atticus attacks Mayella's loneliness and home life, and blames her for her child-like decision to denounce Tom for her unhappiness.

"... She did something every child has done--she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her. But in this case she was no child... she struck out at her victim."

Atticus portrays Tom as a human being, not a black man.

"... Tom Robinson was a daily reminder of what she did. What did she do? She tempted a Negro... Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man."

Knowing beforehand that the jury would not likely believe the word of a black man over a white man, even "white trash" such as the Ewells, Atticus attempts to hammer home his point that Tom had been exploited and unjustly accused.

     "And so a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the umitigated temerity 'to feel sorry' for a white woman has to put his word against two white people's.

Mr. Finch reminds the jury that all Negroes do not lie--that blackness does not necessarily equate with evil.

"... (It is) --the evil assumption--that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women..."

Atticus further appeals to the jury's honest nature.

"... this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has not told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing..."

Lastly, Atticus reminds the jury that all men are created equal, a code that he acknowledges is not always easy to accept.

"There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions."

The court, he says, is the one institution that must always treat all men equally, and Atticus discharges the jury to uphold the grave responsibility of the American court system.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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