Go Set a Watchman

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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.
Home and Belonging Theme Icon

Go Set a Watchman portrays Jean Louise’s homecoming to Maycomb after a long time away, so the idea of home and belonging is an important one in the novel. Much of the plot involves Jean Louise’s memories of her past (scenes that would later be developed into To Kill a Mockingbird). Growing up, she felt out of place as a tomboy in a society that wants women to be “ladies.” Because of this, her sense of home and belonging was built up mostly around the figures of Atticus, Jem, Calpurnia, and Dill. But years later, when Watchman takes place, Jem has died, Dill is in Europe, and Calpurnia is retired and distant. Jean Louise’s disillusionment with Atticus then seems to shatter the last secure piece of home and belonging she had. In fact, once she feels that her family seems to have betrayed her she feels even more out of place in her home town: she cannot relate to the other women at her “Coffee,” and even her old house has been torn down and replaced by an ice cream shop.

After confronting Hank and Atticus, Jean Louise plans to flee Maycomb and never come back, but she is convinced otherwise by Uncle Jack. Jack then asks Jean Louise to consider coming to live in Maycomb again. She will never fully belong in New York, he argues, because she is inextricably tied to Maycomb and the South, and Jack suggests that the very fact that she disagrees with Maycomb’s inhabitants means that she should try to convince them instead of just running away. It is left open what Jean Louise decides to do, but she ultimately accepts that Maycomb (and Atticus, Hank, and Alexandra) is her home, even when she finds it racist and small-minded.

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Home and Belonging Quotes in Go Set a Watchman

Below you will find the important quotes in Go Set a Watchman related to the theme of Home and Belonging.
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

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 3, Chapter 9 Quotes

She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, “What would Atticus do?” passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshipped him.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch, Atticus Finch
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jean Louise continues to ruminate on her father's late "betrayal" of all the values he had previously seemed to stand for. Her crisis isn't just one of disillusionment with someone she considered moral--it's a crisis of her own sense of self, and her own moral standards. Jean Louise hadn't realized that her conscience was always based in her perceptions of Atticus's morality. But now that Atticus himself has undercut his own morals, what does Jean Louise have to stand on? She must learn to build her own principles apart from those supposedly embodied in her father's person.

Jean Louise's crisis also reflects our own as readers: like Jean-Louise, many of Lee's readers grew up worshipping Atticus, asking "what would Atticus do?", etc. Now that we've learned that Atticus (at least as he appears in Watchman) isn't as virtuous as he seemed, we're forced to make a choice. The passage is largely about the difference between idealized heroes and real, breathing human beings. Perhaps it's always dangerous to worship human beings as demigods--because in the end, they'll always do something disappointing.

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.

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

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.

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

“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

“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.

Part 7, Chapter 19 Quotes

“You may be sorry, but I’m proud of you.”
She looked up and saw her father beaming at her…
“Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right—stand up to me first of all.”

Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker), Jean Louise Finch
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Atticus and Jean Louise come to an uneasy truce. Jean Louise continues to disagree with Atticus for his political views--views which she considers to be racist--and yet Atticus is proud of Jean Louise because she had the courage to stand up to him. Atticus, for all his racism, continues to celebrate individual responsibility and strong moral principles, to the point where he not only tolerates but celebrates those who disagree with his ideas.

In an ironic twist, Atticus, the racist segregationist, seems more accepting of differing points of view than Jean Louise, the liberal integrationist (even if his acceptance doesn't extend much beyond his own family here). By the same token, Jean Louise finally seems to accept Atticus as the human father-figure he is: flawed in his beliefs, yet still worthy of her respect and love. She hasn't lost her home (which includes both Maycomb and Atticus himself) after all--she's just seen the ugly truth about it, and must now work to change it because she loves it.