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Go Set a Watchman | Quotes


They were passed down by word of mouth through the years, and every Maycombian knows them.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

Maycomb society operates by a set of rules passed down from generation to generation. The rules are unwritten but understood by all who live there.


When she looked thus, only God and Robert Browning knew what she was likely to say.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

Jean Louise's words are not governed by expectations or norms, as Aunt Alexandra's are. Moreover, just prior to this statement Atticus shoots Jean Louise a warning look, indicating he had a good idea of what she would say; this suggests the God-like status that Jean Louise affords her father. Browning's poem Childe Roland is referenced throughout the story; Uncle Jack calls Jean Louise "Childe Roland," the hero in the poem who makes a journey of discovery.


Well, to hear the Post tell it, we lynch 'em for breakfast.

Jean Louise Finch, Part 1, Chapter 2

Jean Louise, who has been living in New York City, explains to Atticus the perspective of the North on the South. She tells them how the South is characterized in Northern newspapers. The North views the South as backward in terms of social change. The South is suspicious of the North's imposition into their affairs, specifically through the federal government.


Aunt Alexandra ... had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

Aunt Alexandra is a follower, dependent on others for her moral views. Here she represents the views of upper middle-class white Southerners. However, these views are being challenged.


Fine a boy as he is, the trash won't wash out of him.

Aunt Alexandra, Part 1, Chapter 3

Aunt Alexander is referring to Henry "Hank" Clinton, Jean Louise's boyfriend and future fiancé. According to the rules of Maycomb, ancestry trumps money, education, and experiences when it comes to social status.


Why is it ... that you never drink more than half of your second cup of coffee after supper?

Henry "Hank" Clinton, Part 2, Chapter 4

Coffee, symbolizing the perception of maturity, is Jean Louise's favorite drink. However, she fails to see that she is not as grown up as she believes herself to be.


Your trouble, now ... you want to stop the clock, but you can't.

Henry "Hank" Clinton, Part 2, Chapter 5

Hank and Jean Louise are on a date at Finch's Landing. They are discussing change, specifically Jean Louise's conflicting feelings toward it. Hank tells her she can't have it both ways. Jean Louise considers herself a modern woman, yet there is a part of her that wants things to be as they were when she was a child. Change is causing inner conflict for Jean Louise and social and political conflict in the larger society.


They are now trying to change our hymns on us.

Uncle Jack, Part 3, Chapter 7

Uncle Jack comments on a recent change to the liturgy at church services adopted because a Northern church official recommended the changes. The quote expresses the suspicion with which the 1950s South views the North. Northerners and the federal government are viewed as interfering in the affairs of Southern society.


She never questioned it, never thought about it, ... she did not know that she worshiped him.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 9

Jean Louise has so internalized her father's words that they are her thoughts. Relying on her father's conscience was comfortable and felt safe. Now, however, her naive sense of safety has become disrupted.


The old woman sat silent, bearing the burden of her years.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 12

Calpurnia hesitates before responding to Jean Louise's question, "Did you hate us?" This pregnant pause suggests that social and racial inequality deeply impacted Calpurnia even while serving the Finch family. This reality comes as a surprise to Jean Louise and adds to her inner turmoil.


I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour.

Jean Louise Finch, Part 5, Chapter 13

In response to Rev. Stone's sermon on Isaiah 21:6, Jean Louise declares she needs a watchman to help her learn to perceive others more clearly, rather than idealizing them as she has Atticus. However, at this point in the story she fails to see she has a watchman but has surrendered it to her father.


I mean there are some things I simply can't do that you can.

Henry "Hank" Clinton, Part 6, Chapter 16

Hank confronts Jean Louise about her blindness concerning her social privileges. Hank is aware that because of his family background, his acceptance in Maycomb society is tenuous; he feels the need to conform in ways Jean Louise does not have to.


Have you ever considered ... you can't have a set of backward people living among people advanced?

Atticus Finch, Part 6, Chapter 17

Atticus expresses his views of blacks as backward and unprepared for what he views as the full responsibilities of citizenship.


You had to kill yourself ... to get you functioning as a separate entity.

Uncle Jack, Part 7, Chapter 18

Uncle Jack tells Jean Louise she had to "kill" the idealistic, childish image of perfection she held of her father in order to live as a mature individual.


I wanted to crush the man who's trying to preserve it for me.

Jean Louise Finch, Part 7, Chapter 19

Although Jean Louise does not exactly apologize for the things she said to Atticus, this is as close as she comes. She reflects on her resistance to change and recognition of Atticus's attempt at protection.

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