I know, I know. Kathleen, how are you 23 and haven’t read this yet?! I’m embarrassed, don’t judge me. And the fact that I come from a family of lawyers with Atticus’ morals makes it so much worse.
My mom has told me this is one of her favorite books since I was little and now I can see why. I called her after I finished it saying, “Atticus’ speech should be framed in every courtroom in the country.” In case you forgot, here is part of his speech:
“One more thing, gentlemen, before I quit. Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious – because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe – some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cake than others – some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men.
“But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal – there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve. Our courts have faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.
“I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system – that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court in no better that 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. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore the defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.”
This speech made the entire book for me. Atticus reminds me so much of my grandfather (also a lawyer) and what he stood for throughout his life. I loved that this was written through the point of view of a child, but still dealt with real issues and unfortunately issues that we still face today, 58 years after the novel was published.
I was late in writing this post, as I finished over a week ago. I’ve started reading The Power by Naomi Alderman and so far it is excellent. I look forward to writing a post about that one soon!