Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Part 3, Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Nausea overtakes Jean Louise as she sits at the ice-cream parlor. She experiences inner turmoil after she learns of her father's racist views. She longs for her old friend Dill to be there with her, convinced they would stand together against any trouble, as they always had.

The ice-cream man returns, asking if Jean Louise has guessed his name yet. She guesses, on the basis of physical resemblance, that he is a Coningham, but it turns out he is one of the Cunninghams. These two Maycomb families were traditionally close and have interbred over the generations, so the families resemble each other closely in name and in appearance.

Jean Louise returns home and meets Aunt Alexandra's question of whether she attended the meeting at the courthouse. Alexandra criticizes Jean Louise for going out "like that."

Jean Louise declares she is sick to her stomach and does "what every Christian young white fresh Southern virgin does when she's indisposed ... I'm takin' to my bed."

The narrator explains that Jean Louise has been living in an insular world, in which she failed to realize "she was born color blind."

Analysis

According to Joseph Campbell's model of the Hero's Journey, fear of the unknown can cause the hero to temporarily halt the journey. Jean Louise, overcome with nausea as she sits at the ice-cream parlor that stands in place of her childhood home, decides to "take to her bed," an accepted action for the traditional upper middle-class Southern woman in distress. Jean Louise, who has shunned Maycomb tradition all her life, briefly allows herself the "comfort" of this tradition, which provides her a brief respite from the call to action.

As in Browning's poem, Childe Roland begins traveling through a wasteland. On an individual level this is the beginning of Jean Louise's journey through her own wasteland. She feels alone, vulnerable, and disoriented as she enters this difficult phase of her journey. This also mirrors the "wasteland" experienced by the larger society. As racial and class tensions rise, the traditional social order is disrupted. The questioning of long-held norms leaves people feeling disoriented. Societal rules and traditions, even harmful ones, provide a perception of safety and security, as everyone knows what to expect. Uncle Jack expands on these ideas in Chapter 14.

Jean Louise's longing for her childhood friend Dill reflects the conflict between her dependence on others and the need to grow up and live life as an independently functioning adult.

At the end of the chapter, the narrator says that if Jean Louise had had insight about her own visual defect of colorblindness, she could have "pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world." Although Jean Louise felt she saw people simply as people, regardless of skin color, she was oblivious to many of the struggles faced by others of different racial background or social class. In addition, Jean Louise seems to believe she is free of prejudice—a naive and unrealistic perspective.

Also, at the end of the chapter, the narrator engages in foreshadowing, speaking of events to come that Jean Louise "might have prevented ... by considering the day's occurrences in terms of a recurring story as old as time." Here the narrator refers to the ongoing 200-year struggle against racism, segregation, and slavery taking place "in the twilight of a civilization no wars and no peace could save." The civilization referred to is the Southern plantation society that transitioned into a Jim Crow segregationist society, in which whites still treated blacks as inferiors with few rights as citizens. Readers can expect some pivotal events that will test the colorblindness of Jean Louise.

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