Go Set a Watchman

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Disillusionment Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Disillusionment Theme Icon
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Conscience and Principles Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Go Set a Watchman, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Disillusionment Theme Icon

The central plot of Go Set a Watchman revolves around Jean Louise (Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird) returning home to Maycomb after years in New York City and becoming disillusioned with Henry “Hank” Clinton, her old friend and possible fiancé, and Atticus, her father. Most of this disillusionment focuses on Atticus. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a saintlike figure whom Scout and Jem idolize and depend upon. The character of Atticus is similar in Go Set a Watchman, in which he is idolized by Jean Louise as a child and into adulthood as a morally upright, courageous man who can find the good in everyone. But Jean Louise’s idolization of her father is broken when she returns home as a twenty-six-year-old and finds her father to be a staunch segregationist—wanting blacks and whites to be kept “separate but equal.” The great moment of disillusionment comes when Jean Louise sees Atticus and Hank, along with most of the men of Maycomb, at a “citizens’ council” meeting alongside sadistic white supremacists and crooked politicians. Watching Atticus, from whom she had learned all her ideas about morality, acting as a part of something she sees as immoral is a painful experience for Jean Louise. She considers equality between people of all races to be a natural part of her principles, and assumes that Atticus feels the same—especially because she learned such principles from Atticus himself. Jean Louise becomes physically ill at his perceived betrayal, and she responds by lashing out at others.

When Jean Louise talks to Uncle Jack the second time, however, he explains the importance of this painful disillusionment: Jean Louise had unwittingly elevated Atticus to a godlike status, and so in seeing his flaws she can now consider him a real human being. Before this, Jean Louise had been proud that her father wasn’t like other fathers, but now she is forced to accept that he is still merely a mortal man. This experience of disillusionment is difficult, but Lee argues that is it valuable in order to truly recognize each other as worthwhile human beings. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout was disillusioned by seeing the racism at the heart of Maycomb. In Go Set a Watchman she must break her last remaining idol: Atticus. Both novels, however, conclude with the need to accept the basic dignity of all people, no matter how disappointing they might be.

This disillusionment also extends to the “meta-textual level”—a level outside the story itself—as many readers who loved Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird might feel hurt and betrayed by his character in Go Set a Watchman, echoing the feelings of Jean Louise herself. The Atticus in Watchman is more realistic and human, especially considering his time and location, while the Atticus of Mockingbird is more idealized and unrealistic—a saintlike father seen through the eyes of a young girl and a nation looking for an example of pure moral goodness. Watchman was written before Mockingbird, but it is more cynical in its view of the kind of racist condescension that might lie behind even a seemingly pure and righteous man’s actions.

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Disillusionment Quotes in Go Set a Watchman

Below you will find the important quotes in Go Set a Watchman related to the theme of Disillusionment.
Part 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

Henry said, “Were you serious a minute ago when you said you didn’t like your world disturbed?”
“Hm?” She did not know. She supposed she was. She tried to explain: “It’s just that every time I’ve come home for the past five years—before that, even. From college—something’s changed a little more…”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Henry Clinton (Hank) (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise and Hank spend some time together near Finch's Landing, an area that's named after Jean-Louise's family (though her family doesn't have any literal claim to owning it anymore). Jean Louise, who lives in New York now, confesses to Hank that she dislikes returning to the South every few years and finding things different. She sees a constant changing in her hometown--and she finds it hard to keep up.

It's fascinating that Jean Louise is complaining about "change" in the South, when one considers that most of the "changes" in the South during her lifetime were positive changes for the equality: black people saw their rights to vote, attend school, work, and be safe protected by the federal government. Some criticized these political and social changes on the grounds that they destroyed the Southern "way of life" (a way of life symbolized by Finch's Landing, one could argue) and replaced the old way of life with a dull, chaotic "mixing." Jean Louise seems to be a passionate defender of equal rights for African-Americans, and yet, like so many of even the best-intentioned white people, she also feels nostalgic for the past, in all its good and evil. She might logically recognize that Maycomb is (theoretically) becoming a more just place, but she still misses her old home.


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Part 3, Chapter 8 Quotes

Mr. O’Hanlon was born and bred in the South, went to school there, married a Southern lady, lived all his life there, and his main interest today was to uphold the Southern Way of Life and no niggers and no Supreme Court was going to tell him or anybody else what to do… a race as hammer-headed as… essential inferiority… kinky woolly heads… still in the trees… greasy smelly… marry your daughters… mongrelize the race… mongrelize… save the South… back to Africa…
She heard her father’s voice, a tiny voice talking in the warm comfortable past. Gentlemen, if there’s one slogan in this world I believe, it is this: equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker), Grady O’Hanlon (speaker), Jean Louise Finch
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this dramatic passage, Lee "outs" Atticus as a racist character, or at least a character who's willing to support openly racist people. Atticus has agreed to introduced a public speaker, Grady O'Hanlon, who makes a long, rambling speech in which he criticizes the Supreme Court's decision in "Brown v. the Board of Education," the decision usually credited with integrating schools, and therefore communities, in the South. Jean Louise is appalled as she listens to O'Hanlon, who goes on to then use racist slurs to attack African-Americans: she can't believe her good-hearted father, who'd defended the principle of equal rights in the past (as reflected in a quote we might recognize from To Kill a Mockingbird), could partner up with racists like O'Hanlon.

The passage is frightening and yet also interesting in the way it contrasts (or perhaps compares?) Atticus's previous commitment to equal rights with his current support for racist anti-integrationists. Atticus had supported equal rights for African-Americans in the past, or so Jean Louise believed, and yet here Lee shows us the insufficiency of Atticus's beliefs. It's not enough to say that blacks should be "equal," as Atticus has, because equality can theoretically coexist with segregation (hence "separate but equal," the guiding principle of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case that strengthened segregation in the South fifty years before Brown). We also start to see one of the central conflicts of the novel, and of the tension between Lee's two novels, in this passage--how both Jean Louise and the reader of Mockingbird can reconcile the Citizens' Council Atticus of the present with the idealized, saintlike Atticus of the past.

She walked down the steps and into the shade of a live oak. She put her arm out and leaned against the trunk. She looked at Maycomb, and her throat tightened: Maycomb was looking back at her.
Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise walks through the streets of her old town, Maycomb, in disgust. She's just seen a racist council, attended by almost all the white men in town, in which a speaker attacked the black community in the most bigoted terms. Furthermore, her best friend Hank and her own father, Atticus, have participated in the rally.

Jean Louise is beginning to realize that the idyllic town of her childhood was never a lovely, safe place: it was always founded on racist principles and dominated by racist people. The "secrets" that Jean Louise refers to here are the legacy of racism and abuse of the black community--i.e., secrets which are coming to light in the aftermath of Brown v. the Board of Education, and as Jean Louise herself grows up and sees things more clearly. The nostalgia and love for Maycomb that Jean Louise felt just a few days before is rapidly evaporating, and with this disillusionment comes a sense of alienation and homelessness--if she doesn't belong in Maycomb, then where does she belong?

She felt herself turning green with nausea, and she put her head down; try as she might she could not think, she only knew, and what she knew was this:
The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lee sums up everything that's happened to Jean Louise during the chapter. She's learned that Atticus, her beloved father, is an enabler and supporter of racists: he defends and introduces racist speakers who encourage their audiences to think in bigoted terms and demonize the black community. Furthermore, Atticus is a top member of a "Citizens' Council" designed to oppose racial integration. Jean Louise feels a physical revulsion with her father for "betraying her" so publicly: Atticus had always seemed like a very decent, moral person--in fact, Jean Louise's idol and moral standard--and now he's partnering with some of the most immoral people in the country.

Jean Louise's revulsion is fascinating because--due to the circumstances of Go Set a Watchman's publishing, in a way that Lee (seemingly) didn't plan--it's also our revulsion. Atticus Finch is one of the most beloved characters in American literature--the character who launched a thousand legal careers, and inspired millions to find a beacon of justice and morality even in the Jim Crow South. Here, however, we learn that Atticus has turned out to be a bigot, and may have been a bigot all along--that's pretty revolting.

Part 4, Chapter 12 Quotes

What was this blight that had come down over the people she loved? Did she see it in stark relief because she had been away from it? Had it percolated gradually through the years until now? Had it always been under her nose for her to see if she had only looked?

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch, Alexandra Finch (Aunt Alexandra) , Henry Clinton (Hank)
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jean Louise becomes more aware of the racist undercurrents in her community, she continues her crisis of identity and sense of belonging. She wonders here whether something has actually changed in Maycomb recently, or if its nearly-universal racism has always been there, and she was just too young, naive, or willfully ignorant to see it. Jean Louise seems to be going through the various stages of grief: she's angry, she tries to deny the facts, she tries to bargain and negotiate with the truth ("Had it percolated gradually through the years until now?"), and eventually she seems to come to a grudging, tragic acceptance of reality: Maycomb (and Atticus) is bigoted at heart, and on some level or another always has been.

“Thanks, but Scout’ll run me down later.”
His use of her childhood name crashed on her ears. Don’t you ever call me that again. You who called me Scout are dead and in your grave.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Henry Clinton (Hank)
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Atticus refers to Jean Louise by her childhood nickname, Scout. Jean Louise grows furious with Atticus for using her old name: she feels that the name conjures up a time in her life when she still worshipped her father like a god, and could look to him as a moral standard. Therefore, for Atticus to use the nickname Scout now is a reminder that his star has fallen--Jean Louise feels like she no longer knows Atticus at all.

Jean Louise is engaged in a fierce conflict with her father--albeit one that her father is so far oblivious to. Jean Louise, a more open-minded and racially tolerant person than her father, hates that Atticus has become (or always has been) so bigoted in his thinking, even as he taught Jean Louise her own open-mindedness. Furthermore, the passage gains extra significance, beyond anything Lee could have originally intended, because so many of Lee's readers grew up learning about "Scout's" adventures. For Atticus to use the nickname now is to remind us of the old, innocent days of To Kill a Mockingbird, thus adding another tragic level of disillusionment to the passage.

Jean Louise sat in the car, staring at the steering wheel. Why is it that everything I have ever loved on this earth has gone away from me in two days’ time? Would Jem turn his back on me? She loved us, I swear she loved us. She sat there in front of me and she didn’t see me, she saw white folks. She raised me, and she doesn’t care.
It was not always like this, I swear it wasn’t. People used to trust each other for some reason, I’ve forgotten why. They didn’t watch each other like hawks then. I wouldn’t get looks like that going up those steps ten years ago. She never wore her company manners with one of us… when Jem died, her precious Jem, it nearly killed her…

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Calpurnia
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Jean Louise has just visited Calpurnia, her former black maid and mother-figure, and has been hurt by Calpurnia's coldness and the distrustful looks of Calpurnia's family members. Here Jean Louise thinks about her dead brother, Jem, who--now that Atticus has been outed as a bigot--is Jean Louise's last remaining non-racist family member; her last connection to a childhood in which she was innocent of the pervasive racism of her community. By the same token, Jean Louise thinks about Calpurnia as she was (or seemed to be) in the past. Calpurnia took good care of Jean Louise when Jean Louise was a girl--but now, Calpurnia has turned cold and indifferent, as if she recognizes that Jean Louise and Atticus are just "white folks" now.

Jean Louise continues to hang onto an idyllic past, even as it becomes clear that such a past was never that idyllic to begin with. As a child, Jean Louise's world was as racist as it is now, if not more so, but because she was only a (white) child at the time, she was able to see it as a relatively innocent, happy place. As readers, we must therefore reexamine our perceptions of Mockingbird in light of these revelations--perhaps Scout wasn't as reliable a narrator as she seemed, and the events she related were idealized by the same kind of naïveté that affects Jean Louise's nostalgia here.

Part 5, Chapter 13 Quotes

“Jean Louise, nobody in Maycomb goes to see Negroes any more, not after what they’ve been doing to us. Besides being shiftless now they look at you sometimes with open insolence, and as far as depending on them goes, why that’s out.
“The NAACP’s come down here and filled ‘em with poison till it runs out of their ears… You do not realize what is going on. We’ve been good to ‘em, we’ve bailed ‘em out of jail and out of debt since the beginning of time, we’ve made work for ‘em when there was no work, we’ve encouraged ‘em to better themselves, they’ve gotten civilized, but my dear—that veneer of civilization’s so thin that a bunch of uppity Yankee Negroes can shatter a hundred years’ progress in five….”

Related Characters: Alexandra Finch (Aunt Alexandra) (speaker), Jean Louise Finch, Calpurnia
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise confronts Aunt Alexandra about the legacy of racism in the South and the new bigotry she's seen exposed throughout Maycomb (and even in her own family). To Jean Louise's surprise, Alexandra doesn't accept that the South has a continued problem with racism: on the contrary, she argues that white Southerners have taken every courtesy with black people, and yet the black community has responded ungratefully, with insolence and "uppity" behavior. As Alexandra sees it, blacks were given good jobs and opportunities, in return for which they were supposed to keep to themselves and be happy. Instead, blacks have vied for more rights and privileges, with the help of the "Yankee" NAACP.

Alexandra's view of history is, needless to say, incredibly racist and wrong. Blacks in the hundred years following the 13th Amendment were given horrible, low-paying jobs and housing opportunities, forbidden from voting, lynched, and generally treated like animals instead of human beings. Alexandra ignorantly claims that black people are being "uppity" when in reality they're just fighting for the same rights as everybody else.

She answered: please believe me, what has happened in my family is not what you think. I can say only this—that everything I learned about human decency I learned here. I learned nothing from you except how to be suspicious.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Jean Louise confronts one of the strangest paradoxes on Southern culture: Southern culture is based on civility and politeness to an extent seen nowhere else in America (certainly not in New York, where Jean Louise lives now!). And yet Jean Louise knows that Southern culture is also founded on the exploitation of African-Americans: their dehumanizing labor, their inability to vote or go to school, etc. In other words, Jean Louise can't entirely give up on the South; she recognizes that Southern culture and her Southern family taught her how to be a decent person, and she addresses New York here as it's own entity, saying it only ever taught her "how to be suspicious." It's Jean Louise's inability to give up on the South altogether that makes her experience in the novel so agonizing: she loves the South deeply and yet also recognizes that it's a racist place.

Blind, that’s what I am. I never opened my eyes. I never thought to look into people’s hearts, I looked only in their faces. Stone blind… Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone set a watchman in church yesterday. He should have provided me with one… I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference. I need a watchman to go forth and proclaim to them all that twenty-six years is too long to play a joke on anybody, no matter how funny it is.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch, Mr. Stone
Page Number: 181-182
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Jean Louise sums up some of her conflicted feelings about the Southern way of life and her father. Jean Louise realizes that she grew up in something of a dreamworld; she believed that Atticus and Maycomb were one way, when it heart they were something different.

The passage also brings up the notion of a "watchman" (in a rather awkward connection--"stone blind" to "Mr. Stone"--from the young writer Lee), a symbolic figure who can see the future and stand for something permanent, potentially saving Jean Louise from disillusionment by warning her and reinforcing her own principles. The watchman could restore order in Jean Louie's world by telling Maycomb, Jean Louise's town, that it shouldn't have "played a joke" on Jean Louise (i.e., it shouldn't have deluded Jean Louise into thinking it was a fair, equitable place). Of course, there is no such watchman figure in the real world--without Atticus to guide her, Jean Louise feels all alone.

Part 6, Chapter 16 Quotes

“I’m only trying to make you see beyond men’s acts to their motives. A man can appear to be a part of something not-so-good on its face, but don’t take it upon yourself to judge him unless you know his motives as well…”
Jean Louise said, “Are you saying go along with the crowd and then when the time comes—”
Henry checked her: “Look, honey. Have you ever considered that men, especially men, must conform to certain demands of the community they live in simply so they can be of service to it?”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Henry Clinton (Hank) (speaker)
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise has a long conversation with Hank in which Hank seems to defend some of the same ideas that Uncle Jack and Atticus have put forward recently. When Jean Louise tries to argue that the KKK is an inherently racist organization, and that the opponents of integration are inherently racist, Hank disagrees. He claims that may of the people in the KKK, including Atticus (a former member, we learn!), simply believe that the Southern states should be allowed to defend their own rights and determine their own laws, instead of submitting to federal orders. Jean Louise is furious with Hank for arguing on behalf of the KKK: Hank seems to be saying that it's sometimes necessary to align with racist organizations like the KKK in order to enact one's own non-racist ideas. Thus, Atticus joined the KKK not because he hated black people but because he wanted to protect Southern communities and the "Southern way of life."

To say Hank's logic is flawed would be an understatement, however. If the people in power--white Southern men--won't call out their peers for racism, then who will be able to effect change? Hank is essentially saying that the ends justify the means, and he doesn't realize that "temporarily" espousing racist ideas or supporting racist groups isn't really possible--racism isn't just people in white hoods, but is also part of social institutions and political philosophies, even those as seemingly high-minded as self-determination. It's naive to think that one can join the KKK in order to further one's own non-racist ideas, and then expect the policies that result to not be tainted by some kind of racism or inequality. Furthermore, the rather condescending way Hank frames his arguments ("look, honey") doesn't especially endear him to readers.

Part 6, Chapter 17 Quotes

“Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?”
“…Of course I know that, but I heard something once. I heard a slogan and it stuck in my head. I heard ‘Equal rights for all; special privileges for none,’ and to me it didn’t mean anything but what it said. It didn’t mean one card off the top of the stack for the white man and one off the bottom for the Negro, it—”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 242
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Jean Louise finally confronts Atticus about his racist beliefs, and Atticus responds by insisting that he's not a racist at all. He loves black people, but doesn't believe that black people are ready for the responsibilities of American citizens: he doesn't believe that they can be trusted to vote responsibly, attend schools at the level of white children, etc. In short, Atticus is sure that mixing black and white culture will simply dirty white culture, creating social chaos. The only way to maintain order in the South is to keep blacks and whites separate. Jean Louise responds by citing something Atticus told her long ago: "Equal rights for all; special privileges for none" (a famous quote from Tom Robinson's trial in Mockingbird). Jean Louise clearly believes that Atticus, in his loyalty to Southern culture, is evading his own moral philosophy.

The scene is really the climax of the book, because it shows the dialogue that took place between the North and the South in the 1950s and 60s. Atticus, representing the position of the educated, supposedly non-racist Southerner, argues that it's possible for two communities to be separate but equal--while Jean Louise insists that such a point of view is racist. Atticus seems to be sincere in his arguments (i.e., he's not just using "separate but equal" as a strategy to hide his secret hatred for black people), and yet his willingness to think of the black community as "backward" betrays his bigotry. The great conflict for Jean Louise, and for readers of both Mockingbird and Watchman, is how to accept that such bigotry can live alongside such strong moral principles within one man.

“Atticus, the NAACP hasn’t done half of what I’ve seen in the past two days. It’s us.”
“Yes sir, us. You. Has anybody, in all the wrangling and high words over states’ rights and what kind of government we should have, thought about helping the Negroes?”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise makes an argument about the flaws in the Southern anti-integrationist point of view. Atticus claims that the black community simply isn't "ready" to be integrated with the white community, and that the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. the Board of Education will throw the South into chaos--therefore, the South should wait until a future time when the black community is "ready." Jean Louise responds by pointing out that, in focusing so particularly on the Supreme Court and states' rights, the Southern anti-integrationists have neglected the real-world people actually affected by such political wrangling: the entire Southern black community.

In other words, Southerners have claimed that they want the black community to prepare itself for integration--just not today. In the meantime, supposedly, black people are supposed to be "grateful" for the rights and liberties they already have, and not get too "uppity." Such a point of view, Jean Louise argues, is extremely disingenuous, as evidenced by the fact that Southerners who oppose integration seem to have no interest whatsoever in actually helping black people (i..e, preparing them for integration at some point in the future). As readers, we might also add that integration wasn't some kind of "favor" to the black community, or a privilege they weren't ready for yet--it was merely the undoing of racist policies that never should have been there in the first place.

“Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”
“They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us.”
“Do you want your children going to a school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”
“The scholastic level of that school down the street, Atticus, couldn’t be any lower and you know it. They’re entitled to the same opportunities anyone else has, they’re entitled to the same chance—”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 245-246
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, one of the most frequently cited in reviews of the novel, Atticus Finch continues to argue with his daughter, Jean Louise. He claims that the integration of Southern society, while technically "just," will never work in the real world: it would be chaotic to have "carloads" of black people sent into white schools and churches. Jean Louise responds by claiming that black people should be allowed to go to white schools and churches--they're human beings, and deserve equal treatment.

Atticus's argument against integration betrays his racism. He speaks of black people as if they're a swarm of scary invaders--a big, unruly mob without any individual characteristics. Although Atticus claims that his real concern is the quality of education in Southern schools (i..e, black students will drive down the quality of learning), his language suggests a more visceral disgust with black people themselves. Atticus's argument isn't totally invalid (it's not unreasonable to think about the effects of integration on the quality of education), but his wording suggests that he's motivated by racism as much as an abstract commitment to learning or Southern society.

“You sowed the seeds in me, Atticus, and now it’s coming home to you—”
“Are you finished with what you have to say?”
She sneered. “Not half through. I’ll never forgive you for what you did to me. You cheated me, you’ve driven me out of my home and now I’m in a no-man’s-land but good—there’s no place for me any more in Maycomb, and I’ll never be entirely at home anywhere else.”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:

In this climactic passage, Jean Louise seems to be cutting ties with Atticus altogether. She thinks of Atticus as betraying her, and all his arguments in this scene have done nothing to change her mind about this. Atticus raised Jean Louise to believe in equality and humanity, and yet now he seems to be opposing such values. Jean Louise's confession is especially poignant because she claims that she's become totally disillusioned with her hometown of Maycomb as well, not just Atticus. Jean Louise will always be grateful to Atticus and Maycomb for the education and experiences she received, and yet she'll never again be able to truly embrace either Atticus or Maycomb, now that she recognizes the racism and bigotry that surrounded her all along. In short, Jean Louise is finally (seemingly) turning her back on her family and her Southern heritage, even as she acknowledges that she's a Southerner through and through, and accepts that she has no real home but Maycomb and Atticus.

“How they’re as good as they are now is a mystery to me, after a hundred years of systematic denial that they’re human. I wonder what kind of miracle we could work with a week’s decency.
“There was no point in saying any of this because I know you won’t give an inch and you never will. You’ve cheated me in a way that’s inexpressible, but don’t let it worry you, because the joke is entirely on me. You’re the only person I think I’ve ever fully trusted and now I’m done for.”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Atticus Finch
Page Number: 252
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise's attacks on Atticus become personal, not ideological. She's angry with Atticus for contradicting his principles of equality and humanity, and yet she's also furious with him simply because he seems to have lied to her. Jean Louise turns Atticus's argument on his head. Atticus has claimed that the black community's high rates of crime and low literacy are proof that it's not ready for integration with white America. Jean Louise counters by claiming that the black community's relatively high literacy rates are proof that it's capable of surviving and thriving even with the hatred an systematic oppression of the white community pushing it down. Therefore, integration will improve the black community immeasurably: African-Americans are ready, and always have been.

Jean Louise doesn't stop here, though. She tells Atticus that she's done arguing: she can't stand being around him any longer, given how bigoted he's become (and perhaps always was). It's not clear if Lee agrees with Jean Louise's actions completely: Jean Louise is standing by the principles Atticus himself instilled in her, and yet she's also choosing to run away and cut ties with her family and hometown instead of working to change them.

Part 7, Chapter 18 Quotes

Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious… now you, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father’s. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings—I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes ‘em like all of us. You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming that your answers would always be his answers.

Related Characters: Dr. John Hale Finch (Uncle Jack) (speaker), Jean Louise Finch, Atticus Finch
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel reaches an ending, Jean Louise returns to Uncle Jack, and they have a long conversation about individual responsibility and conscience. Jean Louis realizes that her mistake was to trust that Atticus was a kind of god, perfect in every way. Because Jean Louise based her notions of right and wrong entirely around Atticus, she was inevitably going to be crushed when Atticus did something wrong. She's better off figuring out the truth for herself: constructing her own principles apart from Atticus's person, and deciding for herself what to believe about the black community and integration.

Uncle Jack might not agree with Jean Louise, but he doesn't try to sway her to his side too much. Instead, he allows her to believe whatever she wants to believe, rather than leaning on anybody else. In his politics as well as his personal interactions, Uncle Jack could be termed a kind of "libertarian"--he seems to believe that the black community should be allowed to thrive, but on its own, and by the same token, he seems to think that Jean Louise needs to figure out for herself what to believe, rather than trading ideas with anybody else, including her own father. At the same time, Uncle Jack is also a kind of "ivory tower" figure, making high-minded arguments and subtle points that are technically correct, but that ignore real-world injustices and suffering.

“You may not know it, but there’s room for you down here.”
“You mean Atticus needs me?”
“Not altogether. I was thinking of Maycomb.”
“That’d be great, with me on one side and everybody else on the other. If life’s an endless flow of the kind of talk I heard this morning, I don’t think I’d exactly fit in.”
“That’s the one thing about here, the South, you’ve missed. You’d be amazed if you knew how many people are on your side, if side’s the right word. You’re no special case. The woods are full of people like you, but we need some more of you.”
… “What on earth could I do? I can’t fight them. There’s no fight in me any more…”
“I don’t mean by fighting; I mean by going to work every morning, coming home at night, seeing your friends.”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (speaker), Dr. John Hale Finch (Uncle Jack) (speaker), Atticus Finch
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Uncle Jack tries to convince Jean Louise to stay in Maycomb. Jean Louise, disgusted with her father and her old community, has planned to leave her hometown as soon as she can to return to New York. Jack argues that Jean Louise should remain behind, or at least move back again later, despite the fact that she'll be in the minority for her political views. Jack claims that Jean Louise isn't as much of an outsider as she believes--there are others who agree with her about the importance of integration.

Ironically, Jack ends up seeming to take the more moral route than Jean Louise herself on this issue: where Jean Louise wants to run back to New York, allowing Maycomb to persist in its institutional racism, Jack encourages her to stay in Maycomb and interact with the racists in town, perhaps changing their beliefs in the process. She is white, and the daughter of a respected man in town, and so she should use her position of relative privilege to help the people she claims to be fighting for.