mockingbird chapter 36


Her father saw it, and we know from the testimony of the defendant how her father had called her. What did her father do? We don’t know, but there is circumstantial evidence that shows that Mayella Ewell was beaten badly by someone who did it almost exclusively with his left hand. We do know in part what Mr. Ewell did: he did what any God-fearing, respectable white man would do under the circumstances — he asked for a warrant, and no doubt signed it with his left hand, and Tom Robinson now sits before you, and he took the oath with the only good hand he has — his right hand.

And now a quiet, decent, modest Negro who had the impudence to ‘feel sorry’ for a white woman has had to testify against two white people. You saw and heard them in this court, gentlemen. They are full of the cynical confidence that you, gentlemen, will have no doubt in their testimony, they are sure that you, gentlemen, agree that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women.

Gentlemen, we know that it’s a black lie. You know 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 true of the human race in general, not of a particular race of men.»

Atticus paused and took out his handkerchief. Then he took off his glasses and wiped them. His face was shining with sweat. It was very unusual.

«Before I finish, I’d like to say a few words about a phrase of Thomas Jefferson. He once said that all men are created equal. Now, in 1935, some people like to use this phrase out of context, for all conditions. For example, the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the diligent — because all men are created equal, educators seriously say, the children left behind suffer awful feelings of inferiority. We know that all men are not created equal in everything — some people are cleverer than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes — some people are born more gifted than most men.

But in one human institution a poor man is equal to a millionaire, the stupid man equal to a genius, and the ignorant man equal to any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or this honorable court, which you serve. In our courts, all men are created equal.

I’m no idealist, I know that our courts and the jury system are not ideal. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you on this jury. I am sure, gentlemen, that you will study without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and return this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.»

As Atticus turned away from the jury, he said something softly, more to himself than to the court. I asked Jem, «What’d he say?»

I think he said, «In the name of God, believe him.»


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