How Powerful Do You Find Atticus Finch’s Closing Speech?

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In a final bid to secure freedom for Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch uses several linguistic tools in his last speech to the jury to attempt to sway their opinions of Tom’s guilt in the crime.

Emotive language is used in Atticus’s speech to create a powerful effect in his audience. He first uses to make people feel sorry for Mayella Ewell: ‘She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance’. Use of the word ‘victim’ is effective in building pity for Mayella, as it implies that she is not at fault for her misfortunes and is instead the poor unfortunate soul suffering due to circumstances that she could not control. This pity is then used as a way for the jurors to feel a connection with Tom, who, as Atticus points out, is ‘a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to ‘feel sorry’ for a white woman’. By reminding the jurors that Tom is not so different from them, in that they all pity Mayella, Atticus relates them with Tom. Pity for Tom is also evoked, as Atticus reminds the jurors that Tom was merely ‘a quiet, respectable, humble Negro’. Words such as ‘humble’ builds up an image of an unassuming man and plants a little seed of doubt about Tom’s guilt in the minds of the jurors.

Atticus also tries to lead the jury to feel pity for Tom by putting a little emphasis on Tom’s plight: ‘[Tom] has had to put his word against two white people’s.’ In that time of racial prejudice, for Tom to contradict any white person was a desperate path, as black people are usually assumed to be in the wrong automatically, and therefore, through reminding the jurors of Tom’s testimony, Atticus is attempting to bring forth pity for Tom. The tone of the statement also suggests that such a drastic action was not by choice; with the phrase ‘has had to’, Atticus is insinuating that it was Tom’s last resort, that Tom was forced by the circumstances to challenge the Ewells’s testimonies.

The evidence is presented to the jury in a clear manner: ‘There is...
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