Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Part 4, Chapter 11 | Summary



This chapter focuses on sexuality and Jean Louise's ignorance about it when still a teenager. Through flashbacks, she recalls a time during her adolescence when, like the present, the only peaceful time of the day was the moment before she recalled her troubling circumstances. First, she remembers the self-consciousness, worry, and fear she felt during her first period. She felt that her classmates could tell she was walking funny because she was wearing a sanitary napkin. A little later that year, Albert, a classmate, French-kissed her. A female classmate, less naive than Jean Louise, provided enough information and misinformation to cause Jean Louise to believe she was pregnant. Her fears persisted over months until she was near the due date she had (mis)calculated. A heart-to-heart discussion with Calpurnia, the black cook and mother-figure to Jean Louise, set the girl straight. With no mother and a father too embarrassed to talk to his little girl about sex, it was left to Calpurnia to tell her about the birds and the bees.


In Chapter 14 Uncle Jack compares the struggle for racial equality in the South to birth pains. In this chapter Jean Louise acts on her limited information and the misinformation she has received from her school acquaintances, who happen to be passing on their distorted version of truth. As a result, Jean Louise is miserable, believing herself to be pregnant. This mirrors the way misinformation—including racial attitudes—pass from person to person, generation to generation in Maycomb. In addition, the incident shows Jean Louise's history of difficulty discerning the meanings behind people's words.

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