Why does Atticus remove his coat and unbutton his collar and vest during his final speech to the jury in To Kill a Mockingbird? Provide quotes. 

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bullgatortail's profile pic

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

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Despite the stifling heat of the courtroom, it was not a real factor in Atticus's decision to unbutton his collar and vest and remove his coat. It was a shocking sight for Jem and Scout, since Atticus

... never loosened a scrap of his clothing until he undressed at bedtime, and to Jem and me, it was the equivalent of him standing before us stark naked.  (Chapter 20)

It was Atticus's way of stepping down from his position of authority and reducing himself to a common man, like the country folk dressed in their work clothes who served on the jury: He was appealing to their "humanity and morality." 

His voice had lost its aridity, its detachment, and he was talking to the jury as if they were folks on the post office corner.  (Chapter 20)

The remainder of his summation was a plea to the jury to accept Tom's version of the events, to make the unheard of leap of believing a black man's word over the Ewells'. Atticus displayed "another 'first' ":

... we had never seen him sweat--he was one of those men whose faces never perspired, but now it was shining tan.  (Chapter 20)

This was a case Atticus had "hoped to get through life without," and he knew he must take a different route when addressing the jury than he had ever attempted before.

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gmuss25's profile pic

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

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In Chapter 20, Atticus unbuttons his vest and begins to unbutton his shirt in front of the jury before he gives his closing remarks. Scout comments,

Atticus did something I never saw him do before or since, in public or in private: he unbuttoned his vest, unbuttoned his collar, loosened his tie, and took off his coat (Lee 124).

Atticus's actions initially horrify his children, but he proceeds to approach the jury in a casual, informal manner before making his final remarks. Scout narrates,

His voice had lost its aridity, its detachment, and he was talking to the jury as if they were folks on the post office corner (Lee 124).

Atticus's decision to unbutton his vest, loosen his tie, and take off his coat allows him to speak to the jury as their equal. As was mentioned in the previous post, Atticus essentially steps down from his position of authority in order to appeal to the jury as a common man. Atticus is also exposing his true self by removing all unnecessary articles of clothing. Atticus bares his soul to the jury as he encourages them to look past their prejudice. He wants to show the jury that he is being genuine and authentic, hoping they will do the same.

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