In To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the target of Atticus's final plea at the close of Tom's trial?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his summation at the close of Tom's trial, Atticus addresses the jury and makes his last attempt to save Tom's life. After briefly reviewing the evidence, he deals directly with the issue of racism, framing his remarks carefully to suggest that the jury already knows how unjust it would be to convict Tom because of his race, which is certainly not the case. He speaks of "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 . . .

Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie . . . a lie I do not have to point out to you.

Atticus' final plea, then, on Tom's behalf is aimed at the jury's own prejudice that Atticus knows is deeply entrenched. After reminding them of the principles upon which American courts are founded, he reminds them of their personal responsibility:

Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up . . . . In the name of God, do your duty.

In his closing speech, Atticus attempts to convince the men on the jury to rise above their own racism, honor the principles of law, and arrive at a just verdict.



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To Kill a Mockingbird

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