Jean Louise bumps her head getting into the car and curses at it. Hank says she’s not used to cars anymore after living in the city, and they reminisce about a childhood event when Atticus was driving them all to go swimming. He hit a bump and Jem fell out of the car, but neither Jean Louise nor Hank said anything. When they reached the creek Atticus was surprised to find Jem missing, but soon Jem came running up and almost drowned Jean Louise in the creek in anger.
Lee now starts delving more into Jean Louise’s past, as her memories and flashbacks take up larger parts of the narrative. It is these flashbacks that would be revised to become To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s narrative voice would change as well from this book to Mockingbird—instead of observing critically from the outside, she spoke through Scout’s naïve voice.
Hank drives Jean Louise to get drinks and then they start driving again. Jean Louise isn’t used to liquor and she gets sleepy. She is quiet, and she likes that Hank lets her be silent when she wants to be. He is very patient with her, because Atticus had warned him that she can be incredibly stubborn and willful. Hank trusts Atticus and has learned almost everything about law from him, as he found University mostly useless.
There are more hints of sexism here, as Atticus and Hank have a kind of alliance and share advice on how best to deal with Jean Louise. Jean Louise perceives this as Hank being thoughtful, when really it is just an extension of Atticus’s fatherly advice.
Jean Louise starts to doze and Hank watches her, feeling that she belongs to him. Ever since they were little he has felt like “her true owner.” Reminiscing reminds him of Jean Louise’s close childhood friend, Charles Baker Harris, or “Dill.” Hank wakes up Jean Louise to ask where Dill is now. She says the last she heard of him he was in Italy. They briefly discuss Dill, and Hank admits that he was jealous of him for having so much time to spend with Jean Louise and Jem every summer.
Sexism isn’t directly addressed in the novel, but it is especially present in passages like this, where Hank feels like Jean Louise belongs to him. Dill, another major character from Mockingbird, is here barely mentioned. His absence is another part of Jean Louise’s sense of home and belonging that has changed in Maycomb. Dill also serves as a contrast to Jean Louise, as Dill has left behind not only Maycomb but America.
Jean Louise starts reminiscing and the scene changes to a flashback of her childhood. It is summer, when Hank is away staying at his mother’s and Dill is living next door to the Finches. One morning Jean Louise, Jem, and Dill decide to act out a story, and they decide on “Tom Swift,” a book series about a boy adventurer and inventor. Jem insists on playing Tom, while Jean Louise asks to be his friend Ned and Dill is left playing the minor characters.
These flashbacks serve little purpose regarding the novel’s themes, except that they develop the world of Scout, the young Jean Louise—a world where she was happy and comfortable, feeling totally at home with Atticus, Jem, Dill, and Calpurnia. They are also important because scenes like this would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird.
Jean Louise, Jem, and Dill act out a scenario in which Jem rescues Dill from a tribe of headhunters. They are interrupted by Calpurnia, who calls them in to drink lemonade, as she does every morning. Afterwards they decide to act out their own religious revival. All the churches in Maycomb host revivals in the summer, where visiting pastors preach, describing Hell in great detail. The children had attended one that was made accidentally hilarious because the preacher, Reverend Moorehead, couldn’t help whistling through his teeth when he said words starting with “s.”
Lee creates an entirely different world to show the idyllic summers Jean Louise spent with her brother and friend. In these flashbacks, Maycomb is seen through the children’s eyes, and gives the reader a sense of how it is not entirely Maycomb that has changed but Jean Louise, by growing up, now can see it differently. Calpurnia is also a part of daily life, which will heighten the poignancy of her later coldness towards Jean Louise.
Jean Louise, Jem, and Dill decide to have their own revival in Dill’s yard (he stays with his Aunt Rachel, the Finches’ neighbor). Jim plays Reverend Moorehead, while Jean Louise and Dill sing hymns. They can hear Calpurnia calling them in the distance, but they ignore her. Jem preaches a long and tedious sermon and then describes Heaven and Hell. He starts to baptize Jean Louise in the fish pool. Dill runs off and comes back wearing a sheet with holes cut in it for his eyes, saying he’s the Holy Ghost.
They continue the baptism until Dill’s Aunt Rachel interrupts, furious at Dill for ruining her sheets and “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” She orders Dill into the house and Jem and Jean Louise decide to go home. They are horrified to see that Reverend Moorehead is in their driveway, and Jean Louise realizes she is naked—she had taken her wet clothes off after the “baptism.” Calpurnia is furious, and tells them that Atticus had invited Reverend Moorehead over for dinner that night.
These memories (embarrassing though they might be) and the people who inhabit them are happy and familiar ones for Jean Louise—flashbacks to a time when she felt totally at home in Maycomb. This nostalgia for her town, and its contrast to the town she sees now as an adult, will come to haunt her during her coming period of disillusionment.
In saying the blessing over the meal, Reverend Moorehead asks God to watch out for these misbehaving “motherless children.” Jean Louise looks up and sees tears running down Atticus’s face, and she is worried that he’s been deeply hurt. Atticus excuses himself from the table. When Calpurnia brings in the food, Jean Louise asks her about Atticus, and Calpurnia says he is on the porch laughing.
We get glimpses of how difficult it must have been for the aging Atticus to raise two rambunctious young children, but also of how good of a father he was. A man like Reverend Moorehead would have disapproved of Scout and Jem’s antics, but Atticus is sympathetic and even amused. This scene also establishes how Atticus is not beholden to the conservative ideas of the Church, how he is his own man and values his children for who they are – it is this vision of Atticus as a kind of humanist hero that Jean Louise continues to believe in up into her adulthood, and this vision of Atticus that comes crashing down later in the novel.
Hank interrupts Jean Louise’s reminiscing. He asks if she thinks Dill will ever come back to Maycomb, and she shakes her head. Hank and Jean Louise finally arrive at their destination: Finch’s Landing. This is a waterfront estate that is the ancestral home of the Finch family, but has now been sold and turned into a hunting club. Atticus and his brother Jack had been the last to live there, but they moved away to practice law and medicine respectively.
Aunt Alexandra’s refinement and arrogance comes from the fact that the Finch family has a past as a wealthy, slave-owning Southern family. Their present members aren’t any wealthier than many of those Alexandra considers “trash,” but the Finches still have the pride of their heritage and being an “old family.”
There are 366 steps leading down to Finch’s Landing, and Hank and Jean Louise start to descend. Hank reminds her that they’re trespassing, as the Finches sold the last of the land months earlier. Jean Louise is upset that no one told her this, though she knows they had no use for the land. She says “I don’t like surprises.” They run down the steps and then sit on the landing, smoking and kissing. Jean Louise laments that every time she’s come home since living in New York, something new has changed.
Jean Louise doesn’t like change, even though she knows she would be miserable living in Maycomb. She likes to be able to live in New York and then come home and find everything to be the same. This conservative, nostalgic tendency sets her up for the especially painful disillusionment that follows.
Hank asks her about this, and Jean Louise says she wants Maycomb to stay the same, even though she knows she’d go crazy living there. Hank tells her that Maycomb is going to change completely in their lifetime, and that eventually she’ll have to choose between Maycomb and New York. Jean Louise thinks to herself that she would leave New York for Finch’s Landing and Hank, but not for Maycomb and Hank.
Jean Louise’s feelings for Hank are not especially strong—Hank is inextricably linked to Maycomb in his past and her memory, but she doesn’t want to move back there even for his sake. That she would move back for Finch’s Landing and Hank suggests that she shares on some level Aunt Alexandra’s belief that Hank can never be right for her because of his past: she wants a legacy of Finch’s Landing and Hank can never provide that. (That Finch’s Landing was almost certainly a slave-holding estate complicates this nostalgia and desire of Jean Louise’s, though that isn’t a complication in Jean Louise and her worldview that the book really explores.)
Hank repeats his offer of marriage, and tells Jean Louise that he plans on running for the local legislature. She is surprised, and Jean Louise realizes that Hank often thinks that she’s laughing at him. She apologizes for this and they kiss passionately. Finally they prepare to run back up the stairs, and Hank half-jokingly asks Jean Louise about whether she has a secret boyfriend in New York.
When Jean Louise is affectionate towards Hank, it is usually because she feels guilty or rebellious regarding him, as when Aunt Alexandra called him trash, and now when she realizes that she herself is often condescending to him. Hank, for his part, is trying to hold onto Jean Louise but there is an aspect of desperation to his efforts.
Jean Louise threatens to push Hank into the water, and he threatens to take her with him if she does. She gives him a few seconds to empty his pockets and then they both jump in. They swim a little and then go back up the stairs and get in the car. Jean Louise feels happy and contented, and she imagines herself married to Hank. As they drive they pass a car full of black people speeding past. Hank says that they like to “assert themselves” now by buying cars and speeding around in them, and are a “public menace.” Hank drops off Jean Louise, kisses her, and they make plans for the next night. Jean Louise goes to bed.
Lee juxtaposes this idyllic scene—the two young lovers, seemingly with a happy future ahead of them, swimming together at night—with a sudden intrusion of the outside world. It is only a car full of black people, but its sudden passing and Hank’s reaction hint at more conflict to come, though Jean Louise thinks nothing of it now.