The trial of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of the most famous legal battles in literature. An African American falsely accused of raping a white woman, Robinson's case and ultimate future bear significant social repercussions for the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. His story also provides an opportunity for students to practice the fundamentals of a persuasive essay. Knowing how to intersect the facts of the case with elements of a persuasive essay can help you gain insight into the novel as well as writing arguments.
Taking a Position
In persuasive essays, authors take a clear stand on an issue. One way to do this is by playing the role of someone within Lee's novel. For example, you could write as a concerned Maycomb citizen, a sympathizer of Atticus Finch or one of Tom's family members. Another part of taking a position is considering your audience, deciding which characters in the story might read your essay, either Judge Taylor and the jury or the city of Maycomb. You could write your essay in a letter or editorial format.
Persuasive essays include a clear, specific thesis statement, usually at the end of the first or second paragraph. A typical thesis will state the argument itself, along with one to three good reasons for the author's position. The evidence against Tom's guilt will help you craft a convincing thesis. Fro example, "Tom Robinson should be released because of his circumstantial presence at the Ewell home, physical evidence revealing his innocence and the Ewells' apparent bias and ulterior motives against him."
Paying special attention to the evidence presented -- the testimonies of Tom, Sheriff Tate, and Bob and Mayella Ewell, as well as Atticus's summation -- will help you develop three main points regarding Tom's innocence. Persuasive essays must also address opposing viewpoints. In this case, you can respectfully acknowledge the viewpoints of the judge, jury and Maycomb citizens, even as you offer opposing evidence.
A good conclusion does more than simply summarize the paper; it leaves readers thinking about the argument even after they put it down. For example, this paper's conclusion might address the argument for Tom's release in light of his dignity as a human being. Although the Ewells and much of Maycomb see him as guilty simply because of his race, he has a wife, a job and children he needs to raise and provide for. In the end, he deserves the right to live the life he has built for himself regardless of his skin color.
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