Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Part 5, Chapter 13 | Summary



It is the day of the coffee party, and Jean Louise dreads it all the more when she sees no one on the guest list she feels she has anything in common with. Aunt Alexandria chastises Jean Louise for visiting Calpurnia, explaining that "nobody in Maycomb goes to see Negroes any more, not after what they've been doing to us." She blames the NAACP for filling the heads of the blacks "with poison."

Jean Louise decides there must be something wrong with her because everyone she loved and thought she knew and from whom she learned right and wrong seems to be acting strangely.

The guests arrive for the party. Hester is disappointed that Calpurnia's grandson will most likely be charged with manslaughter rather than murder. Referring to blacks accused of major crimes, she declares, "hasn't been a good trial around here in ten years." Others make disparaging remarks about blacks. Hester repeats what she has heard from her husband, Bill, comparing blacks to the Communists and suggesting that ultimately the South will be overthrown and the races "mongrelized" if people are not vigilant. Claudine says she doesn't know how Jean Louise can live in New York City, a place of people with no manners. Jean Louise corrects her, saying they simply have different manners from people in Maycomb. Claudine says that Jean Louise "must be blind or something." Jean Louise concludes that Claudine is right. She is blind and needs the watchman Mr. Stone spoke of in church.


Aunt Alexandra chastises Jean Louise for going to visit Calpurnia. Her response reflects the unwritten rules of Maycomb. Blacks and whites exist in largely separate worlds.

The coffee party showcases the persistent beliefs and rules by which Maycomb society functions. The gathering itself is a product of Maycomb tradition, something that is done because it has always been done and that makes it the right thing to do. Aunt Alexandra carries out her duty in perpetuating the practice, although clearly Jean Louise has no interest.

Maycomb relies on the perspectives of others to shape attitudes and beliefs. Aunt Alexandra relies on tradition and what others approve of as her moral compass. Hester relies on the views of her husband, Bill, whose beliefs have become her own.

Jean Louise recalls seeing the faded Double Wedding Ring quilt at Calpurnia's and takes this pattern, which visualizes how two separate individuals can be united in marriage without losing their individuality, as evidence that Calpurnia did not hate the Finches. In contrast to the women at the coffee party who fear racial integration, Jean Louise believes the races can be integrated.

During the coffee party, bits and pieces of conversation are strung together, resulting in a confused message. For example, "When Jerry was two months old he looked up at me and said ... toilet training should really begin when ... he was christened ..." This is suggestive of the belief system of Maycomb. It has been formed by pieces of information strung together, resulted in distortions of truth. Rules and beliefs that have been passed on by word of mouth and distorted emerge as the antithesis of a reasoned discussion.

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