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Rhetorical Analysis of Atticus Finch’s Closing Statement

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Rhetorical Analysis of Atticus Finch’s Closing Statement (Movie Version) To Kill a Mockingbird is known to many as one of the best pieces of American literature. One of the characters in the book, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer representing Tom Robinson, a southern black man who has been accused of rape by a white woman. In his closing statement, Atticus uses such great rhetoric to help defend Tom Robinson and persuade his fellow community that he is not guilty. To accomplish this he uses certain diction, syntax, and tone to deliver a powerful statement at the climax of this trial. This of which is known, as a rhetorical masterpiece and is praised by many. Throughout his closing statement, Atticus uses certain sentence structures and word choices to help emphasize key ideas and points as well as making his speech overall more effective.

A common piece of diction that he does is dramatic pauses, to help bring attention to certain facts and ideas in his statement. “And Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken “The Oath” with the only good hand he possesses — his right.” Now of course, the “–“represents the pause that he has taken during the speech. He does this purposely to emphasize the importance of Tom’s right hand being the only usable hand he has, representing how this is a major key point in the trial. As well as pauses to effectively point out ideas, Atticus also uses certain word choices in helping further prove Tom Robinson’s innocence. Atticus uses a certain format when presenting his facts and ideas on the case, he seems to present his ideas in a broad to specific way to help persuade his side on the crime.

For example, his beginning paragraph in the speech pertain to what the court knows and progressively as the speech continues opens up new ideas and thoughts that the jury and judge can go on when coming to a decision. A common syntax throughout the piece is the word “negro”. At first glance, one could consider this a euphemism for a much more offensive word but taking a closer look shows another meaning to Atticus’s use of the word. This word is only brought up when Atticus presents the idea of Mayella, the white woman accusing Tom of rape, feeling a sort of guilt and shame from her relationship with Tom. It is as though Atticus uses the word “negro” to help represent the severity of a white woman and a black man having a relationship during the time and place. Atticus also uses the word to bring emphasis on how Mayella feels about the “crime” she thinks she has committed.

Of course though this word was common in the south, however; Atticus is not in any way a racist and gives respect to those who deserve it. One could also point out as another form of syntax, Atticus uses this word because of the audience that he is addressing to. Who, because are all southern white men, are likely to use this word day to day themselves when describing a colored or black man. This could help present Atticus’s ideas in a way that is, in a sense, pleasing to these men. Prehaps if Atticus didn’t use the word, the towns people could maybe have discarded his new theory/idea on the case in some form of ignorance that many southerners were said to have back in this time. This is why he only uses this word when describing the scenario that Mayella wants to escape by accusing Tom of raping her, and why he uses the term black man when describing the “crime” that he thinks Mayella did.

When delivering his closing statement, Atticus shows a somewhat consistent tone throughout the time he is delivering the statement. The tone is a powerful mix of strategic and power. Without these two vital factors, this speech would have never landed the impact that it had. Atticus shows confidence when presenting a seemingly outrageous idea that Mayella had a relationship with Tom, who was ashamed and embarrassed of what she did, which is why she accused him of rape. Without that confidence to turn the table on her, Atticus speech would not have been powerful enough for anyone to believe him. If he had stated that new theory in any other way than with confidence it would have been a sure misfire. Along with this confidence was the great power he used with his voice. In the sense that he wasn’t afraid to say whatever he needed to say to win the case.

This was shown when Atticus demonstrated how he felt about the racial injustice in town, stating how the town’s people felt an evil and immoral sense of heart towards black men. Atticus’s goal here was to try and make the town’s people see their wrongful beliefs towards Tom and to even get them to give an unbiased verdict towards the case. In what is considered to be a historical and literary American masterpiece, lies a rhetorically amazing speech that is provided by Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson. Though he did lose the case in the end, due to racial ignorance at the time, he delivered such a powerful closing statement that is still admired today. This is for Atticus using certain diction, syntax, and tone to help deliver his thoughts and ideas in one last chance to help a doomed man. This was truly a very effective example of American rhetoric.

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