Go Set a Watchman

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Go Set a Watchman Part 4, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the present, Jean Louise wakes up. She has a minute of peace and hopefulness as she smokes her first cigarette, but then remembers the day before and feels almost physical pain. Usually she would go outside now and listen to the mockingbirds, singing and wondering at the dawn, but instead she puts her head in her hands and thinks that she would have rather caught Atticus and Hank at a bar with women than at that meeting.
Here Lee hints at the motif of the mockingbird that would give its title to To Kill a Mockingbird: the idea of something beautiful and fragile that is crushed by human hatred or violence. Here Lee loosely connects the flashback to the present with the idea of Jean Louise waking up happy and then remembering the horrible truth.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise suddenly decides to mow the lawn, and she gets the mower out of the garage and starts, though it’s hardly dawn. She is comforted by the clean lines of where she has cut the grass. Aunt Alexandra comes outside and stops her, saying that she’s woken everyone up. Jean Louise goes inside, where Atticus is eating his breakfast. This is a slow and painful process because of his arthritis. He talks lightly to Jean Louise, but she only responds with “yes sir” and “no sir” and avoids looking at him.
Jean Louise truly returns to her familiar Maycomb world—now facing Atticus as well as Alexandra—and finds that nothing has changed except herself. Before this morning she just hadn’t considered the possibility of anything unsavory mixed in with Atticus’s familiar character. The “diminished” physicality of the arthritic Atticus mirrors how he has been diminished in Jean Louise’s eyes. That she cannot look at him attests to how devastating this diminishment is for her.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jean Louise finally looks at Atticus and finds herself surprised to see that his appearance hasn’t changed overnight. Hank arrives and says he saw Jean Louise in the courtroom yesterday and waved to her. Jean Louise is terse with her answers and both Atticus and Hank comment that she should see a doctor today, as she seems unwell.
Clearly Hank isn’t ashamed of being part of the citizens’ council, as he even saw Jean Louise watching and waved to her. Jean Louise sees that nothing seems different about Atticus or Hank, so she blames herself for somehow becoming different and unlike them. Atticus and Hank's comments about Jean Louise seeing a doctor again suggests a latent level of sexism in Maycomb, as a woman being upset is seen as a sign of her being ill (as if there might not be any other legitimate reason for her to be upset).
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Hank tells Atticus about a call he got from the sheriff that morning. A young black man (the son of Calpurnia’s son Zeebo) got in an accident while driving drunk and killed an old white man, Mr. Healy (who was also probably drunk). Hank says he told the sheriff Atticus wouldn’t take the case, but Atticus says he will take it. Jean Louise feels suddenly relieved, like maybe the day before was just a bad dream and Atticus hasn’t changed at all.
This echoes the main conflict in Mockingbird, where Atticus decides to defend a black man against a white woman. Now Atticus does something similar, and so Jean Louise gets a glimpse of hope that maybe he still is the same Atticus she had idealized. At the very least she expects him to be loyal to Calpurnia and her family.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Conscience and Principles Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
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Atticus goes on and says that they should take the case to avoid it falling into the hands of the NAACP lawyers. Jean Louise asks him to explain, and Atticus says that black NAACP lawyers are looking for black-on-white crimes in the South so they can demand that there be black people on the jury, take the case to a Federal court, and try to win on a technicality. Atticus and Hank start laughing about the NAACP. Jean Louise leaves the room.
Jean Louise’s hope is shattered when Atticus reveals his real reason for wanting to take the case. In Mockingbird (and Jean Louise’s rosy memory) he seemed only interested in objective justice, but now he is playing politics and has no real concern for Calpurnia’s grandson.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Conscience and Principles Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Jean Louise can’t believe that Atticus won’t help Calpurnia’s grandson. He used to be willing to do anything for her, if not “simply from his goodness.” Jean Louise is horrified by the “blight” that seems to have come over the people she loves. She wonders if it had always been there, and she only notices it now after being away. She decides to visit Calpurnia.
Here Lee explicitly states the theme of disillusionment, as Jean Louise has her comfortable shell broken all at once. It seems late in her life for this to happen, but finally her eyes are opened and so are those of the readers who idolized Atticus like she did. Her decision to visit Calpurnia seems like an attempt to try to find at least some vestige of the past she remembered.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Conscience and Principles Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise goes back into the living room. Atticus calls her “Scout,” and the nickname is painful to Jean Louise. She thinks “you who called me Scout are dead and in your grave.” Jean Louise takes a bath and gets ready to go into town, where Aunt Alexandra wants her to run some errands.
Once again this scene almost requires the experience of Mockingbird, as the reader of Watchman alone wouldn’t feel particularly attached to Jean Louise as “Scout.” Jean Louise thinks of Atticus as having drastically changed, as having died, instead of having always had a side she was blind to.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise buys groceries and the storeowner, Mr. Fred, gives her a free Coke as he always used to. They discuss Mr. Healy’s accident, and Mr. Fred talks about how when he was away at war he started to miss Maycomb terribly. He says that no matter what “you never get it out of your bones.” Jean Louise tries to argue that Maycomb is just like any other little town, but Mr. Fred stops her and says she knows that’s not true. Jean Louise suddenly feels disconnected not only from Atticus and Hank, but from all of Maycomb, and she blames herself for this.
Jean Louise is feeling especially homeless right now, now that those closest to her seem to have betrayed her, so it confuses her pure anger and pain to hear Mr. Fred talk about how important Maycomb is as a home. As a result of this Jean Louise starts to blame herself instead of Atticus and Hank and Maycomb. They seem unchanged, so she decides that she must have somehow changed.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Jean Louise brings the groceries home, avoiding speaking to Atticus. Then she drives to the edge of town, where Calpurnia and her family live. There are many people on her porch and Jean Louise recognizes some of them, including Zeebo. When Jean Louise approaches they all step away from her as a group. Only Zeebo steps forward and greets her. He leads her inside to see Calpurnia. Zeebo has been married and divorced many times, but he is now back with his first wife.
This is the only real interaction with black characters Lee portrays in Watchman, and it serves mostly to heighten the sense of division and distrust that emerged between blacks and whites in the South after the 1954 Supreme Court decision. Whites reacted with anger to the imposed decision and its mandates (whether for racial reasons or states rights reasons or both), and Blacks suddenly saw in this moment of gaining new rights that even their “friends” among the whites were only friends when whites were acknowledged by all as superior. Jean Louise was friends with many of Calpurnia’s family members as a child, but now they step away from her as one—and with good reason, considering the kind of hatred and racism we saw at the citizens’ council.
Themes
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise goes into Calpurnia’s room and notes how small and frail she looks in her chair. Jean Louise sits down and tells Calpurnia that Atticus will help her grandson, whose name is Frank. Once Jean Louise would have said this with perfect confidence, but now she doesn’t believe her own words. Calpurnia speaks, but with her “company manners,” how she used to talk to white people other than the Finches. Jean Louise is appalled at this and starts to cry.
Jean Louise expects at least Calpurnia to remain familiar and comfortable, but when men like Atticus are attending citizens’ council meetings it has tragic results. Blacks are in danger of systematic oppression and even violence, and so naturally they are wary of whites like Jean Louise. Jean Louise only sees the personal side of this, the rupturing of her personal relationship with Calpurnia, and so is deeply hurt.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise asks Calpurnia if she has forgotten her, and why she is doing this to her. Calpurnia responds by asking “what are you all doing to us?” Jean Louise tries to talk to her about Atticus and how he has changed, but Calpurnia offers no sympathy. Before she leaves, Jean Louise asks Calpurnia if she had hated them during all those years of working. Calpurnia pauses and then shakes her head.
For her part, Calpurnia has clearly been hurt by the sudden anti-integration movement, and more personally she probably feels betrayed by Atticus just like Jean Louise does. While Calpurnia shaking her head suggests that the personal relationships that Jean Louise remembers were in fact real, the pause before hand also suggests that for Calpurnia it was always more complicated and that perhaps Calpurnia always saw Atticus with clearer eyes than Jean Louise did.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
As she walks out Jean Louise offers Zeebo her help if he needs anything, but he says nothing can be done about his grandson. Zeebo helps Jean Louise turn her car around in the narrow road, and then goes back inside. Jean Louise sits in the car, distraught that everything she loved seems suddenly to have left her.
Jean Louise still can’t see the larger political and social forces being played out in Maycomb, so she sees only personal betrayals. Now Calpurnia, her last link to her sense of home and belonging, seems to have disappeared too.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise knows that Calpurnia had loved her and Jem when she raised them, but now Calpurnia just sees her as “white folks.” Jean Louise tells herself that things weren’t always this way—people “didn’t watch each other like hawks” when she was growing up. Calpurnia had grieved when Jem died. Jean Louise remembers visiting her just two years earlier, and Calpurnia talking proudly about Jem bringing her a coat from the war. Jean Louise starts to drive, and a racist children’s rhyme gets stuck in her head.
Jean Louise tries to return to her old naiveté as Scout, but she cannot now that she has seen the truth. Calpurnia did clearly love the Finches, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t constantly aware that they were in the position of power over her. Jean Louise suddenly remembering the children’s rhyme shows that the racism she is seeing is not anything new—she has just been blind to it.
Themes
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon