In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what questions does Atticus ask the jury in Tom Robinson's trial?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 20 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the trial of Tom Robinson is coming to a close.

The witnesses have all been called and cross-examined. Atticus has begun to address his closing remarks—his summation—to the jury. He begins by stating that the case against Tom Robinson should never have come to trial. He reminds the jury that Mayella Ewell had done something terrible in throwing herself at Tom and trying to kiss him. Because she had broken this time-honored code within society, to ease her own guilt...

...she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her...he must be removed from her presence, from this world. She must destroy the evidence of her offense.

Atticus then asks the jury the rhetorical question:

What was the evidence of her offense?

He answers:

Tom Robinson, a human being.

Next Atticus asks:

What did she do?

He answers: 

She tempted a Negro.

As he continues describing what transpired with the testimony, Atticus then asks:

What did her father do?

Here Atticus notes that no one can be certain of exactly what Bob Ewell did when he discovered his daughter, but that evidence indicated a left-handed man “savagely” beat Mayella. (At this point, everyone in the room knows that her father is left-handed.)

Each of these questions points the jury to specific and important points that Atticus wants to refresh in each of their minds before they go to into deliberations, hoping that they will rely on the facts and not the lies thrown at Tom Robinson's behavior and character in the show put on by the Ewells, or prejudice: that...

...in our courts all men are created equal.

Sources:

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