What was Atticus trying to say in his closing speech at the end of the Tom Robinson trial in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Atticus made several specific points in his closing argument during the trial of Tom Robinson, but the most important was that the jury needed to disregard the fact that Tom was a black man and do their duty. Atticus reminded the jury to make their decision based on the facts and not from any racial bias. There was no medical evidence to support the charge, Atticus claimed, and that both witnesses (Bob and Mayella) had delivered contradicting testimony. Atticus claimed that it was Mayella who had attacked Tom, and that she had instigated the physical contact. He claimed that her own guilt--from kissing a Negro--prompted the charge against Tom. Atticus also pointed out that Tom's crippled left arm prevented him from the physical force of which he was charged.

But his main point was that all people are created equal, regardless of color. Tom deserved a fair and sound verdict, and Atticus begged the jury to

"... review without passion the evidence you have heard... In the name of God, do your duty... In the name of God, believe him." 

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Atticus explains how there is no medical evidence to convict Tom Robinson of raping and beating Mayella Ewell at the beginning of his closing remarks. He points out Mayella and Bob's conflicting testimonies and elaborates on why Mayella accused Tom Robinson of raping her. Mayella felt guilty for breaking a time-honored "code" of society by kissing a black man. Atticus says Mayella sought to destroy the evidence of her actions by accusing Tom and trying to "put him away from her." (Lee 272) Atticus illuminates the correlation between the location of Mayella's injuries and her father's strong hand. He notes Tom Robinson's impeccable character and his crippled arm. Towards the end of his speech, Atticus challenges the jury to do their duty and not believe the "evil assumption" that all Negroes are immoral human beings. Atticus appeals to the integrity of the United States court system where each man is treated equally. Atticus wants the jury to treat Tom Robinson fairly and view his case without prejudice. 

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mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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During the trial of Tom Robinson, the townspeople have turned against Atticus because he has taken the case. Atticus has done his job, and proved that Tom is innocent, but because he is a black man, Atticus knows that he will never be treated fairly. 

When the closing arguments come about, Atticus tells the people on the jury that they have to look past Tom being a black man and see him as just a man. He tells them it is their God given duty to do the right thing. He is trying to get them to do what is right and not what the town says. Atticus knows it is not going to end well for Tom, so he tries to appeal to the jury's moral compass. By telling the jury that it is their God given right to do the right thing, he is telling them that they have a responsibility to God to do what is right.

"She was white, and tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mandated to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her after words."

With this statement, Atticus is showing that Tom was tempted but wasn't the one who broke the code. He is saying that he knows Tom is a black man, but the jury has to do what's right.

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