Jean Louise goes to Atticus’s office. Hank is still at his desk, and she greets him and agrees to go on their date that night. She feels like Hank is still an important part of her, but now he is only her oldest friend, and no longer a potential husband. Atticus comes out of his office. Jean Louise starts to apologize, but Atticus smiles at her and says he’s proud of her, because she stood up for what she thought was right, even against him.
The novel ends with a more cynical but realistic conclusion than Mockingbird. Jean Louise accepts that her family and friends might hold views she considers immoral, but she also recognizes that she has no other home, and decides to continue loving them for who they are. Atticus still stands up for personal responsibility and integrity, despite everything.
Jean Louise thinks about how she tried to “destroy” Atticus and all of Maycomb, when they are the things that make up her world. She thinks of the town and her relationship to it through the metaphor of an airplane: “they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly.” Again she thinks about Atticus “I can’t beat him, and I can’t join him.”
Here Jean Louise compromises her principles some, veering dangerously close to Hank and Atticus’s arguments that blacks are “moving too fast” and aren’t ready for the responsibilities of citizenship yet. Jean Louise decides that having old views (even when they are immoral) is important to making society function at the proper pace.
Jean Louise tells Atticus “I think I love you very much.” She sees him, “her old enemy,” relax, and he calls her Scout and asks her to take him home. Jean Louise helps him into the car, feeling like she is finally letting him join the human race. Something makes her shiver at this thought. She gets into the car and is careful not to bump her head this time.
Jean Louise can now see Atticus as both her ideological enemy and her beloved father, all in the same complex and flawed human being. The book ends by centering on Jean Louise’s personal struggle, rather than the political struggle that actually affects the lives of millions of black people, and so Watchman basically leaves that issue open to focus on its white characters. Jean Louise has finally worked through her disillusionment and found a kind of peace, though it is unclear whether she will return to Maycomb and begin the difficult work of changing people’s opinions (much less whether she will be successful at it). She accepts that Maycomb and Atticus make up her home, and she won’t abandon them even when she disagrees with them. Meanwhile, it is interesting also to look at To Kill a Mockingbird in light of this ending, as Mockingbird ends with Scout finally being able to see the world from Boo Radley’s viewpoint and with the affirming idea that people are able to see the world from “other people’s shoes” and a suggestion that such capacity might also solve the racial issues surfaced in the Tom Robinson trial. But when looked at through the prism of Watchman it is possible to see that latent in this affirming ending of Mockingbird is the idea that people should be allowed to come to this “progress” on their own, that they can only achieve such progress on their own. In other words, it is possible to see the hostility to the 1954 Supreme Court decision portrayed in Watchman as a possible byproduct or even inherent in the sentiment of the optimistic ending of Mockingbird. And, of course, the debate on this issue—on the right way to achieve progress—still rages in the United States today, pertaining not just to issues of race now but also to gay marriage and the reaction to the Supreme Court decision making the right to gay marriage the law of the land.