Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Speech Analysis - Atticus Finch's courtroom speech


Atticus Finch's Closing Argument in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird 


Ethos – Atticus Finch is well respected throughout the entire town of Maycomb, Alabama. He is known for being dedicated to truth and justice, and he lives his life by doing what he believes is right. The townspeople know that Atticus is a good person, which increases his credibility. His position as a lawyer in a town also greatly increases his credibility, especially because there are not many people who have higher education in Mayfield. Atticus established further credibility during his speech with how he chooses to address the crowd. Atticus is very good at understanding who his audience is. He knows of the beliefs and prejudices that the people in his Southern town hold. Atticus addresses these directly in his speech, and challenges these notions, such as the idea that "all negros are immoral beings". Although even addressing these prejudices is taboo, Atticus does it in a respectful way by not addressing individuals but the entire town.

Logos – Atticus begins his speech with a logical appeal to the audience. He begins by saying that there was not enough evidence for the court to even come to trial, stating, “The State has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place.” He continues to point out that the evidence shows that Mayella Ewell was beaten was beaten by someone’s left hand, whereas Tom Robinson is obviously right-handed. Stating these true and logical facts at the beginning of his speech is important, because it shows the jury the loopholes in the case and plants seeds of doubt right from the start. It is easier to appeal to emotion when the audience already has doubts.

Pathos – Atticus appeals to the audience’s emotions by painting a picture of Mayella Ewell as a weak, beaten woman whose only fault was kissing a man of darker skin. He evokes pity for Mayella at first, but then changes that by saying that Mayella’s action of putting Tom Robinson’s life at stake to hide her own guilt is unforgivable. Atticus then attempts to transfer the audience’s pity to Tom Robinson, who is the real victim in the courtroom. He calls out the so-called ‘witnesses’ for assuming that the jury would believe them just because of Robinson’s skin color. By doing this he appeals to the jury’s emotions by claiming that they are smarter than only judging on skin color. He addresses the racist preconceptions that the jury might have had and tells them they are better than that, making them feel guilty for the racism they may have felt. Atticus tells the jury he is sure that they will make the right decision, saying, “Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this man to his family.” He is putting additional pressure on them to make a choice based on facts and not on preconceived notions of race. He finally ends his speech with one last emotional appeal by bringing up religion. Atticus says, “In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson.” He tells the jury that they are working for God by making the right decision, appealing to their religion, which is often a very effective appeal. Unfortunately, despite Atticus’ excellent credibility, and logical and emotional appeals, the jury of Maycomb cannot be swayed from their terrible racist views and finds Tom Robinson guilty.

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