Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Character Analysis


Jean Louise Finch

Still somewhat tomboyish, as Scout had been, Jean Louise has strong opinions and is not afraid to speak her mind, a trait encouraged by her father and tolerated by her boyfriend, Hank. She perceives herself as a modern woman with progressive notions about equality; she considers herself "colorblind" when it comes to racial differences. The idealistic, sometimes childish Jean Louise believes her views of racial equality are one and the same with those of the father she idolizes. Upon discovering they are not, she becomes angry, disillusioned, and confused. Jean Louise is on a hero's journey during which she must disentangle her own conscience from her father's. She must "kill" the idealistic image of Atticus she has carried since childhood before she can assume her own identity. With her own conscience as her moral compass, she is increasingly able to help others.

Atticus Finch

The townspeople of Maycomb view Atticus as a lawyer with integrity and respect him greatly. His daughter, Jean Louise, worships him for his strong moral character and his defense of and respect for blacks. However, upon her return to Maycomb after having been years away, she soon discovers that this respect her father shows blacks is not always with the pure motives she assumes. It turns out that Atticus is also a member of the racist Citizens' Council. He believes blacks are not yet prepared to govern and sees gradual reform as the path to social change. He remains strong in his convictions and does not back down when challenged by Jean Louise. At age 72 Atticus is crippled with arthritis. His character aligns in some ways to the "hoary cripple" of Browning's Childe Roland, a poem referenced several times in the book. In the poem, the narrator perceives the hoary cripple as lying about the way to go; similarly, Jean Louise feels Atticus has lied to her.

Henry "Hank" Clinton

Henry "Hank" Clinton has a long association with the Finch family. He was a close friend of Jean Louise's brother, Jem, and as the story opens, he is Jean Louise's boyfriend. Within the first few chapters, Hank becomes her fiancé. Upon Jean Louise's return to Maycomb, Atticus has taken Hank under his wing. Atticus treats him as the son he has lost and takes Hank on as a young partner in his law practice. Despite Hank's efforts, he is never completely accepted on any front. Jean Louise claims to be "almost in love with him," though she realizes that makes no sense. Hank himself is aware that although he has served in World War II, is educated, and has professional standing as a lawyer, the Maycomb townspeople don't seem to completely accept him. Representing the views of Maycomb's upper middle class whites, Aunt Alexandra says that Hank is "white trash" because that is what his parents were. Even though Atticus treats him like a son and Jean Louise plans to marry him, he knows he will never have the privileges granted Jean Louise because of her social standing as a Finch.

Uncle Jack

Dr. Jack Finch, the brother of Atticus and Alexandra, attended medical school through the support of Atticus. Uncle Jack regularly reads literature, which he often quotes. He has eccentric habits that cause some to think he's a little crazy, but Jean Louise trusts him to be honest with her and views him as a mentor of sorts. Because he, unlike Atticus and Hank, is not a member of the Citizens' Council, Jean Louise counts on him to help her make sense of the puzzling behaviors of people she thought she knew. However, he sometimes speaks to her in riddles, leaving her confused. Atticus enlists Uncle Jack to help Jean Louise gain an adult perspective on herself and the world around her.

Aunt Alexandra

Aunt Alexandra, Atticus's sister, comes to live with Atticus and cares for him after Calpurnia leaves. She is prickly and proper, carrying on the traditions and beliefs of generations of white Southerners, most notably the superiority of upper middle-class whites, a group to which she belongs. Although Jean Louise is grateful for Aunt Alexandra's care for Atticus, frequent conflicts between the two women represent the tensions between traditional and modern notions of culturally acceptable behavior, etiquette, and social equality.

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