Go Set a Watchman | Study Guide

Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman | Part 6, Chapter 16 | Summary

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Summary

Jean Louise and Hank go for coffee. Hank senses Jean Louise is quiet and asks how the coffee party went. She reports on Hester's adoption of Bill's views. Hank views this as a result of Hester's love for Bill and sees the loss of individual identity as part of love. Jean Louise states she will not marry. Hank says, "You're going to marry me, remember?" She declares she will not. She reveals that she saw him and Atticus at the Citizens' Council meeting and that it made her vomit. Hank tries to explain the reason for their association with the council, as a protest to the Supreme Court and a call for slow reform. He argues further that Atticus was at one time a member of the Klan, albeit for "noble" purposes. He went to one meeting years before only to find out which men in town were members and hiding their faces behind the white hoods.

Hank accuses Jean Louise of taking her social status and the freedoms it affords her for granted. Because of his family history, he does not enjoy such freedoms and must rely on himself. Jean Louise views Hank as a coward and a hypocrite.

Unbeknownst to Jean Louise, Atticus had been standing behind her. He stands up for Hank, arguing, "Hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as anybody."

Analysis

Hank calls out Jean Louise on her blindness to the privilege she has enjoyed. He, on the other hand, has had to make his own way and will still never be fully accepted by Maycomb society because of his parents' social status as "white trash." Hank displays a self-awareness that Jean Louise does not possess. Hank has tried to see the reasons people do what they do and is sometimes willing to compromise when the ends justify the means. Jean Louise sees him as a coward and a hypocrite—sins she cannot forgive. She is blind to her own cowardice, as she is afraid to face life on her own instead of in the safety of her father's shadow, as well as to her hypocrisy in presenting herself as a modern, independent woman. Not unlike her aunt and the women at the party, Jean Louise has yielded her conscience to another. Only when she sees the truth of Atticus's perspective can she become aware of her dependence on her idealized view of him, and the need to form her own conscience.

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