What is Atticus' defense strategy in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Atticus' strategy to defend Tom Robinson is to essentially illustrate the Ewells' despicable character, draw attention to the Ewells' conflicting testimonies, highlight the location of Mayella's injuries, reveal that Bob Ewell is left-handed, and to point out Tom Robinson's handicap. Atticus also plans to encourage each jury member to view the case void of prejudice by judging solely on the evidence and testimonies presented.

Atticus begins to by questioning Sheriff Tate to describe the specific location of Mayella's injuries. Tate says that Mayella was beaten predominately on the right side of her face and that her right eye was swollen. When Bob Ewell takes the stand, Atticus asks him to confirm Sheriff Tate's testimony regarding the location of Mayella's bruises, and he does. Atticus then proceeds to ask Bob to sign his signature on the back of an envelope. When Bob signs the paper, it is revealed that he is left-handed. The significance of Bob's "strong hand" comes into play later on in the trial.

When Atticus cross-examines Mayella, he asks her numerous questions regarding her home life. It is revealed that the Ewell family is dirt poor, Bob is a hopeless alcoholic who has violent tendencies when he is drunk, and Mayella is solely responsible for raising her siblings. Atticus asks Mayella to describe the assault, and she is unable to give an accurate description of what happened. When Atticus asks her if she remembers being beaten in the face, she says, "No, I don't recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me" (Lee 248). Atticus understands that Mayella's fabricated story will crumble under pressure, which is why he continues to question her about the events of the evening when she was allegedly raped.

When Atticus asks Mayella to identify her perpetrator, she points to Tom Robinson. Atticus has Tom stand up to reveal to the jury and audience that his left arm is severely crippled. This is a significant moment in the trial because the audience is aware that an individual leading predominately with their left arm could inflict injuries to the right side of a person's face. Tom cannot use his left arm, and Bob Ewell is, in fact, left-handed which suggests his guilt.

When Mayella claims that Tom was the man who raped her, Atticus simply asks, "How?" (Lee 249). Mayella knows that it is obvious that Tom could not have raped her and begins to alter her testimony. Atticus applies more pressure by asking her consecutive questions that she refuses to answer. Atticus asks, "Why don't you tell the truth, child, didn't Bob Ewell beat you up?" (Lee 251). Mayella's silence signifies her guilt.

When Tom takes the witness stand, Atticus begins by bringing up the fact that Tom was once convicted of disorderly conduct. Jem tells Dill that Atticus was showing the jury that Tom had nothing to hide. Atticus allows Tom to tell his version of what happened the evening of November 21st which is drastically different from Mayella's story. Atticus had mentioned before that he wanted the entire truth to be told during the trial which is why he allows Tom to tell it in explicit detail.

During Atticus' closing remarks he elaborates on the fact that no medical evidence was presented and draws attention to the Ewells' conflicting testimonies. Atticus reveals Mayella's motivation for accusing Tom Robinson by claiming that she felt guilty about getting caught seducing a Negro. He then urges the jury not to let their prejudice affect their decision because every man is considered equal in a court of law. By appealing to the jury's conscience, he hopes that Tom will be acquitted.

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