Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Part 3, Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Atticus and Hank go off to a meeting at the courthouse. Jean Louise is looking forward to a fun-filled afternoon visiting with Uncle Jack but finds a disturbing racist pamphlet entitled The Black Plague her father has evidently been reading. Aunt Alexandra informs Jean Louise that Atticus and Hank are members of the Maycomb County Citizens' Council, with Atticus serving on its board of directors. Jean Louise tries to convince herself that there is some misunderstanding, but she heads off to observe the meeting for herself. The speaker spouts his racist, segregationist views as Jean Louise hears her father's voice echoing in her head—"equal rights for all, special privileges for none." Jean Louise feels ill.

Jean Louise walks to the ice cream shop built on the site of her childhood home. She vomits in response to the betrayal she feels her father has committed.

Analysis

The events of this chapter leave Jean Louise feeling like she is the "larva of an ant lion," yanked cruelly from its hole, taken from safety and left exposed and struggling. Seeing Hank at the Citizens' Council meeting is bad enough, but this is minor in comparison to seeing Atticus's involvement. Jean Louise's childish image of her father as morally perfect has been shattered, and this is the thing that leaves her feeling violated, vulnerable, and in turmoil. She sits in the courtroom balcony where she once watched her father defend blacks. She knew him as her hero, a defender of the defenseless.

Like Childe Roland in the Browning poem referenced throughout the text, Jean Louise feels she has been lied to. Childe Roland feels he has been lied to by the narrator, a "hoary cripple." Jean Louise feels she has been lied to by her father, crippled with arthritis.

Jean Louise goes to the ice-cream parlor that sits where her childhood home once stood. She becomes nauseated as she thinks about what she has just seen. The ice-cream parlor represents the change from a child's to an adult's perspective, which Jean Louise is struggling to accept.

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