Speech to the Jury
Uploaded by PaulCao on Oct 13, 2001
For any speech to be successful, it must persuade its audience. To attain this goal, the speech has to first get the attention of the audience and at all times, maintain those audience’s interest. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, in his speech to the jury uses conflicting ideas to arouse and keep the interest of the jurors. By doing so, Atticus tries to sway his audience toward his ultimate intention, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Tom Robinson is not guilty of attacking Mayella Ewell.
As a lawyer defending a black man being accused of rape in the 1930’s, Atticus indicates to his prejudiced audience that he, like everyone else, has “nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the state”. After establishing this rapport with his audience, Atticus firmly tells the jury that “his pity does not extend so far as to her [Mayella’s] putting man’s life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt”. Through these two conflicting ideas, Atticus shifts the role of the criminal and the victim by implying that Tom, is also a victim. On the other hand, Atticus does not accuse Mayella of her “guilt”. Instead, he again builds up mutual understanding with his audience that Mayella, too is a victim, “the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance”. Expectantly, this is again later supplemented with a contradiction when Atticus stated, “but I cannot pity her … she struck out at her victim [Tom Robinson] – of necessity she must put him away from her – he must be removed from her presence, from this world. She must destroy the evidence of her offense”.
Later in his speech, Atticus Finch mentions a quote of Thomas Jefferson, “all men are created equal.” He tells the jury that in reality, it is not the case, “we know all men are not created equal … some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it…”. Atticus here appeals to the common sense of the juror that Tom Robinson, being a black man is not viewed as an equal. “But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal”, Atticus goes on to say that in fact, there’s a “human institution” when all men are created equal; it is the “great reveler”, our...