How does Atticus's closing speech (in court) compare to Martin Luther King Jr's speech, "I Have A Dream" speech?I have to write a compare and contrast essay about the persuasive writing techniques...

How does Atticus's closing speech (in court) compare to Martin Luther King Jr's speech, "I Have A Dream" speech?

I have to write a compare and contrast essay about the persuasive writing techniques used in both speeches so if anyone has any good points they can share I would greatly appreciate it! :)

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both King and Finch are powerful speakers.  They each know how to use words to reach into the heart, or emotion, of their audience.  This is known as pathos, or appealing to emotion.  King tells us about children and his dream, appealing to our emotions.  Finch sympathizes with Mayella and reminds the jury that they have all been dishonest at one time.

For contrast, the purpose and audience of the two speeches is different.  Atticus Finch is speaking directly to a jury, and he wants them to do something very specific right then—he wants them to acquit Tom Robinson because he has been proven innocent.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s audience was much larger.  While Finch’s audience was all white, King’s is a mixture.  Yet King also is requesting that his audience do something- end segregation.

For similarities, both men use the persuasive appeal of ethos (referring to a famous person) by quoting Thomas Jefferson.  Both quote the “all men are created equal” concept.  The speeches gain credibility because they cite Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence and the big ideas therein. Finch goes on to explain that in a courtroom, all people are equal regardless of skin color.

But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. (Chapter 20)

Both men also acknowledge that things are not going well in the country.  There is not currently equality.  Finch notes that black men are automatically assumed guilty.

The witnesses for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption—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, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber. (Chapter 20)

King notes that promises were made that everyone would be equal, and America has defaulted on that promise because the Negro is not free.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. (King)

Although neither was successful immediately, both seem to have accomplished something in getting people to think and feel.  In the end, Finch’s jury did convict, but at least they deliberated.  King’s speech is still remembered today, and did lead to the Civil Rights Movement’s eventual success in large part.



Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question