Atticus Closing Argument Analysist: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

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Atticus Closing Argument Analysist: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

This essay will analyze Atticus Finch’s closing argument in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It will discuss how he uses ethos, logos, and pathos to defend Tom Robinson and challenge racial prejudices. The piece will examine the effectiveness of his argument and its impact on the novel’s themes of justice and morality. More free essay examples are accessible at PapersOwl about To Kill A Mockingbird.

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Multi-media artist Yoko Ono once said, “Words are power. And a book is full of words. Be careful what power you get from it. But know that you do” (1). Her words bear true for people who use their terms and actions to express who they are. They can use it to emphasize and invoke a certain feeling or viewpoint. No other character from Harper Lee’s historical fiction novel To Kill a Mockingbird fits this narrative better than the character Atticus Finch, who is a lawyer of the defendant, Tom Robinson, in the story.

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The character Atticus is extraordinary in his usage of words within the narrative as he shows time and time again his skillful application of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos throughout the court case.

Atticus’ Role in the Novel’s Themes

Atticus, throughout the story, proves to us that he’s a proficient person of speech, especially with Ethos, Pathos, and Logos at his disposal. He uses Ethos during his closing argument on the case of Tom Robinson as a last-ditch effort to convince the judge and jury that Tom did not rape a woman. When he begins his final sentiment, he explains to everyone in the room, “‘I shall be brief, but I would like to use my remaining time with you to remind you that this case is not a difficult one; it requires no minute sifting of complicated facts”‘ (Lee 1). He does this to remind everyone in the room that he is a lawyer; he holds the authority to be heard and understood, therefore highlighting his credibility.

After his initial insertion of jurisdiction, he follows it up with another example of another exemplary use of Ethos. It’s when he’s testing the reality of their situation when, after explaining that he’s no idealist, he finishes his argument with his view that “a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.”‘ (Lee 13). He explains that every man on the jury is just as important as the judge or lawyers, and because Atticus doesn’t set himself above everyone else, people can relate to him and respect his case even further than they would’ve had him not.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

When Atticus decides to use logos, he attempts an explanation of the obvious regarding what truly ensued on the day of the accused rape. When Atticus explains his version of the story, he explains the events that most likely occurred started with Mayella flirting with Tom, but “‘Her father saw it, and the defendant has testified as to his remarks. What did her father do? We don’t know, but there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led almost exclusively with his left”‘ (7). Because of Tom’s critically injured left hand, which he obtained at a young age, Atticus designates the fact that if Tom beat Mayella, it was on her right side, which in turn raises red flags. Near the beginning of his argument, Atticus stated the obvious facts, “‘The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant”‘ (2). Because Mayella was beaten but never got medical aid, their evidence is nonexistent and is perceived as redundant. The required evidence should’ve been common sense for the Ewells to deliver, but because their claims were false, they had nothing to prove their points with.

During his exchange in the courtroom, Atticus cleverly decides upon the sharp approach of Pathos to guilt trip not only Mayella Ewell but everyone, including the judge and jury, so he can try to help them face the obvious of their racism, blinding them from the blatant truth. He explains the wrongdoings of Mayella Ewell and why she would tempt a black man, and he starts by saying, “‘She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: she is white. She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted in breaking it”‘ (4). Because Atticus is confronting Mayella on obvious deception, he presses her to confess the truth or at least expose her in the act of forging her false claims. When Mayella refuses to speak any further, Atticus then tries to guilt trip everyone on how they view racism and perhaps reconsider the verdict by stating, “‘The truth and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire”‘ (9). Atticus is putting the black man on the same level as the white by saying that no man is perfect or has lived their life without sin. He tries to set the thought that all men are created equal and that no one person is better than another in all attributes.


Atticus Finch is a wise man of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. He is one of the most important characters in the story due to his characteristics and traits. He teaches us that words are powerful and that the way we use them can produce an immensely different outcome in nearly any situation. Therefore, whenever you’re in a complicated situation, remember that the words you decide could ultimately turn the tide of the conflict.


  1. “Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird” by Mary McDonagh Murphy
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Atticus Closing Argument Analysist: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from