In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tries, and ultimately fails, to clear Tom Robinson of rape charges. Integral to his attempted appeal to the jurors–and to the film’s appeal to its viewers–is his closing argument. This represents his final opportunity, in the words of Clarence Darrow, to “make [the] jury like his client, or at least feel sympathy for him” (qtd. in Hoffman 251).
We’ve discussed Atticus’ closing argument and its ultimate failure to convince the jurors. Now it’s your turn. Pretend that you are Atticus Finch, and create an argument that represents your best attempt to convince the jury to acquit Tom Robinson. Consider your audience. Who are they? What are their feelings and biases? How will you take these feelings and biases into consideration? What sorts of appeals are likely to reach them–and what sorts will alienate them? What sorts of evidence should you remind them of? How will you make them “like [Tom], or at least feel sympathy for him”?
Your closing arguments should be about 500-700 words in length, and are due in class on Thursday (9/15).
Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-244.
Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson in court.