Go Set a Watchman

The single father of Jean Louise and Jem, a respected small-town lawyer and member of the state legislature. At the time of the novel he is seventy-two and has bad rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and shoulders. Atticus raised his children to be independent, empathetic, and well-read, with strong moral principles. He takes Hank under his wing after Jem’s death. Despite treating everyone with respect and previously defending a black man in court against the accusations of a white woman, Atticus opposes integration, especially integration enforced by the federal government, and is on the board of the Maycomb Citizens’ Council.

Atticus Finch Quotes in Go Set a Watchman

The Go Set a Watchman quotes below are all either spoken by Atticus Finch or refer to Atticus Finch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disillusionment Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Go Set a Watchman published in 2015.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

Henry is not and never will be suitable for you. We Finches do not marry the children of rednecked white trash, which is exactly what Henry’s parents were when they were born and were all their lives. You can’t call them anything better. The only reason Henry’s like he is now is because your father took him in hand when he was a boy, and because the war came along and paid for his education. Fine a boy as he is, the trash won’t wash out of him.

Related Characters: Alexandra Finch (Aunt Alexandra) (speaker), Jean Louise Finch, Atticus Finch, Henry Clinton (Hank)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Atticus took his career in his hands, made good use of a careless indictment, took his stand before a jury, and accomplished what was never before or afterwards done in Maycomb County: he won an acquittal for a colored boy on a rape charge. The chief witness for the prosecution was a white girl.

Related Characters: Atticus Finch
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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Part 5, Chapter 13 Quotes

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:

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Part 5, Chapter 14 Quotes

The South’s in its last agonizing birth pain. It’s bringing forth something new and I’m not sure I like it, but I won’t be here to see it. You will. Men like me and my brother are obsolete and we’ve got to go, but it’s a pity we’ll carry with us the meaningful things of this society—there were some good things in it.

Related Characters: Dr. John Hale Finch (Uncle Jack) (speaker), Jean Louise Finch, Atticus Finch
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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“Atticus, the NAACP hasn’t done half of what I’ve seen in the past two days. It’s us.”
“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:

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“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:

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“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:

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“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:

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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:

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“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:

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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:

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Atticus Finch Character Timeline in Go Set a Watchman

The timeline below shows where the character Atticus Finch appears in Go Set a Watchman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
...as she likes trains and gets to admire the countryside. She doesn’t want her father Atticus, who is seventy-two, to have to drive all the way to the airport in Mobile... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
...considered Cousin Joshua a “credit to the family,” but Jean Louise learned the truth from Atticus. Cousin Joshua had attended the University of Alabama, where he went mad and fired a... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
...then stops, just as Jean Louise predicted. She is surprised to see that her father, Atticus, isn’t waiting for her as she had expected. Instead it is Henry “Hank” Clinton, her... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise gets into the car (which is Atticus’s) and jokes about its automatic transmission. Hank asks Jean Louise to marry him, half joking,... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Hank considers Atticus to be like his father, but doesn’t think of Jean Louise as his sister. He... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
The narrative now follows Atticus Finch, who is seventy-two and arthritic. He reads a book and talks to his sister... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Hank and Jean Louise arrive and Jean Louise greets Atticus excitedly. They all sit down and Jean Louise asks for the gossip about the family... (full context)
Racism and Bigotry Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
Atticus then asks Jean Louise what she’s heard about “what’s going on” in the South regarding... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Conscience and Principles Theme Icon
Southern Politics and Society Theme Icon
...Jean Louise that it was now her duty to stay home and take care of Atticus. Jean Louise insisted that if Atticus wanted her to come home he would have told... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
...Alexandra had done “the one generous act” of her life by going to live with Atticus and help take care of him. Calpurnia, the family’s old black housekeeper, had gotten too... (full context)
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Mockingbird and Watchman Theme Icon
Jean Louise helps Alexandra do dishes and looks around, admiring Atticus’s new house and thinking that he is “an incredible man.” He had torn down their... (full context)
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...idea of the event, but she is still grateful to Alexandra for taking care of Atticus, so she doesn’t complain too much. Jean Louise asks about Hank, and Alexandra boasts that... (full context)
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...points to his bad manners, and then gets worked up imagining him taking advantage of Atticus’s charity. Jean Louise finally can’t take it anymore and she tells Alexandra to “go pee... (full context)
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Jean Louise gets ready for her date with Hank, and talks to Atticus, who is reading in the living room. He chides her for being crude to Aunt... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
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...naked the night before. Alexandra is scandalized, but Jean Louise shrugs it off. She tells Atticus, who also makes light of it. Alexandra is confused when she sees Jean Louise’s wet... (full context)
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...church. Aunt Alexandra disapproves of Jean Louise’s attire as usual. Uncle Jack, the brother of Atticus and Alexandra, is waiting for them at the church. He was a bone doctor in... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8
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That afternoon Hank comes by to get Atticus for a “meeting” at the courthouse, and he solidifies his plans with Jean Louise for... (full context)
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...the ridiculous statements it makes about scientific racial inferiority. Aunt Alexandra says it’s something that Atticus brought home from a Maycomb citizens’ council meeting. Atticus is on the board of directors,... (full context)
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...which is usually for “blacks only,” where she and Jem used to sit to watch Atticus when he was in court. Jean Louise looks down and sees not only the “trash”... (full context)
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...public office, taking advantage of others’ poverty to keep his power. Jean Louise knows that Atticus would normally never even speak to Willoughby, but now they are sitting at the same... (full context)
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The clock strikes two and Atticus stands up, tersely introducing the speaker for today, a man named Grady O’Hanlon. Mr. O’Hanlon... (full context)
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...of a scene twenty years earlier, when she sat in the same spot and watched Atticus defend a black man against a white woman on a rape charge. Then Atticus had... (full context)
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...growing even more vicious and offensive, and Jean Louise starts sweating and panicking to see Atticus and Hank sitting to either side of him, seemingly condoning his words. Uncle Jack seems... (full context)
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...is now treeless and covered in gravel. Suddenly she feels nauseated, and is sure that Atticus, the man she trusted and admired most of anyone in the world, has betrayed her. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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Atticus’s moral character has never been called into question in Maycomb. He can be described with... (full context)
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Atticus had raised his children well, teaching them to read early and letting them read whatever... (full context)
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Atticus sent Jean Louise to a womens’ college in Georgia, and then told her to move... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 11
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...upon oneself and one’s family. She grows depressed and angry, and won’t even talk to Atticus and Jem. Every morning she wakes up hopeful, but then remembers her supposed baby and... (full context)
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...plans on killing herself the day before that, so as to avoid bringing shame on Atticus and Jem. On the day of her suicide, Jean Louise climbs up the town water... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 12
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...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. (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
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Jean Louise finally looks at Atticus and finds herself surprised to see that his appearance hasn’t changed overnight. Hank arrives and... (full context)
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Hank tells Atticus about a call he got from the sheriff that morning. A young black man (the... (full context)
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Atticus goes on and says that they should take the case to avoid it falling into... (full context)
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Jean Louise can’t believe that Atticus won’t help Calpurnia’s grandson. He used to be willing to do anything for her, if... (full context)
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Jean Louise goes back into the living room. Atticus calls her “Scout,” and the nickname is painful to Jean Louise. She thinks “you who... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...“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... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 13
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...equally by a white man and a black woman. What hurts her so much about Atticus is that he lived by this truth, and now has abandoned it. (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 14
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...asks her what’s the matter. She says she can’t figure out what has happened to Atticus and Hank and Aunt Alexandra. Jack laughs at her, which makes Jean Louise angry. (full context)
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...like she’s a medical anomaly, and says she’s making a bad mistake if she thinks Atticus is a “nigger-hater.” He says that Atticus and those Southern men like him are fighting... (full context)
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...so difficult in his vague arguments. She again asks him straightforwardly what is wrong with Atticus and Alexandra, and why black and white relations are so bad right in the South... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 15
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Jean Louise then realizes in a panic that she doesn’t know how to dance. Atticus suggests she ask Uncle Jack, and he comes over and gives her a quick lesson.... (full context)
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...drops Jean Louise off afterward, he kisses her lightly. She runs inside and immediately asks Atticus if he thinks Hank is too old for her. (full context)
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...she congratulates Hank—who forged all the other confessions—and he says he got the idea from Atticus, whom he had driven off to consult. (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 16
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Jean Louise goes to Atticus’s office and talks to Hank. He is going out, and she walks with him. She... (full context)
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...the Ku Klux Klan, saying that it used to be a respectable organization, and that Atticus had been a member forty years earlier. Jean Louise bitterly says that she isn’t even... (full context)
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...gives up and accuses Hank of being a “scared little man” who goes along with Atticus and the crowd even when he knows they’re not right. (full context)
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...that he is a hypocrite, and she can’t live with a hypocrite. She then hears Atticus behind her, saying “hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 17
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Atticus sends Hank away, and Jean Louise realizes that they are standing in the spot (outside... (full context)
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Jean Louise decides to not argue with Atticus, but just to tell him her thoughts and then leave. She declares that the citizens’... (full context)
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Jean Louise knows that Atticus is keeping the conversation in safe territory, so she keeps talking. She thinks that the... (full context)
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...conversation with the idea of not arguing, and then escaping to New York while preserving Atticus as a happy memory, but now she decides to go ahead and argue with him.... (full context)
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Atticus responds that Southern blacks already have had their chance. He says that their civilization, as... (full context)
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Atticus says that Jean Louise is being inconsistent by attacking the Supreme Court but also defending... (full context)
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...South should have been fighting the Supreme Court, but instead they just turned against blacks. Atticus says to think of things practically, and asks if Jean Louise wants “Negroes by the... (full context)
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Atticus says that he’s trying to make Jean Louise understand his position. Nothing has convinced him... (full context)
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Atticus asks Jean Louise how she could have grown up in Maycomb and not understand all... (full context)
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Jean Louise tells Atticus that everything she learned she got from him, and that he should only blame himself... (full context)
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Jean Louise can tell that Atticus is still a “gentleman” no matter what, but she keeps going with her angry accusations.... (full context)
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Atticus pleads with her, saying that he only let Mr. O’Hanlon speak because he had asked... (full context)
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...considering how snubbed and degraded they are in every aspect of life. She declares that Atticus is the only person she ever fully trusted, and he has cheated her. She’ll never... (full context)
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Atticus responds with “well, I love you.” Jean Louise gets angrier, declaring that she’s leaving and... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 18
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Jean Louise drives home, feeling distraught beyond words. She is especially heartbroken by Atticus’s refusal to fight back, and his final phrases “I love you” and “as you please.”... (full context)
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...has a drink and then tells Jean Louise that he knows about her talk with Atticus. He agrees to be straightforward with her now, and says he was so vague earlier... (full context)
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...that “every man’s watchman, is his conscience.” Growing up, Jean Louise’s conscience was based around Atticus, and so Atticus became like God for her—she never allowed him to be a man,... (full context)
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Uncle Jack goes on: because of this, when Jean Louise saw Atticus doing something contradictory to her conscience (like sitting at the citizens’ council), it made her... (full context)
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Jean Louise realizes that this is why Atticus only answered her curses with calm and loving phrases. She had tried to destroy him,... (full context)
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Uncle Jack tells Jean Louise that she and Atticus are very similar, actually, except that she is a bigot and he’s not. He clarifies... (full context)
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Uncle Jack says that this is the law Atticus lives by: letting people do what they please, as long as they aren’t actively hurting... (full context)
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Uncle Jack tells Jean Louise to take him home and to then pick up Atticus. Jean Louise feels like she can’t see Atticus again after what she said to him,... (full context)
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...with her mother. Jean Louise feels ashamed again of yelling at him, and asks if Atticus knew this. Jack says he did. Jean Louise thanks him, and he thanks her too,... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 19
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Jean Louise goes to Atticus’s office. Hank is still at his desk, and she greets him and agrees to go... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Jean Louise tells Atticus “I think I love you very much.” She sees him, “her old enemy,” relax, and... (full context)