Jean Louise goes back to Mr. Cunningham’s ice cream shop, and he gives her a free scoop for recognizing him, as he had promised. She eats her ice cream and tries to make sense of the conversation she just had with Uncle Jack. Jean Louise looks around at the gravel lot and imagines where her old house and the trees used to be.
Jean Louise now steps back, along with the reader, and tries to make sense of what Uncle Jack just said. Once again the ice cream shop that replaced her old house is associated with Jean Louise’s sense of disillusionment, and yet as she tries to understand what Jack is saying she also remembers Mr. Cunningham and imagines her old house superimposed over the grounds; she is still connected to her old home.
Jean Louise starts to reminisce, and she remembers when she was back in grammar school and invited to her first dance. Jem and Hank were both seniors, and Jem was in love with a girl from a nearby town. Hank invites Jean Louise to the dance, and so she buys a fancy white dress. She also buys a pair of “false bosoms” for herself to fill out the dress, despite Calpurnia’s discouragement.
Like before, Jean Louise escapes into happy memories of simpler times when she is faced with the painful and complicated present. And so the novel goes into another humorous but unrelated story about Scout’s adventures years before, when she felt like she belonged in Maycomb.
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. Jean Louise gets dressed up and Hank comes to pick her up. Calpurnia wants to sew the false bosoms into Jean Louise’s dress, but Jean Louise assures her that she’ll be fine. Uncle Jack gets frustrated with how late they all are, and Jean Louise is surprised to see that Hank brought her a flower corsage. They finally drive off—Hank and Jean Louise in Jem’s car, and Jem in Atticus’s car, to go pick up his date in the next town.
This is another story about the Scout that might have fit into Mockingbird, but the figures of Hank and Uncle Jack play a more prominent role—as they do in Watchman, but not in Mockingbird. We see here that Uncle Jack is another important part of what Jean Louise considers home.
Jean Louise and Hank arrive at their high school gymnasium and everyone is impressed by Jean Louise’s dress. Hank dances with her and she has a good time. Later, as they are dancing, Hank suddenly stares at her and then leads her outside into the dark. Jean Louise realizes that one of her false bosoms has fallen out of her dress. She starts crying, worried that everyone saw and is making fun of her.
Lee shows that Hank is another major figure in Jean Louise’s memories (besides saving her life when she thought she was pregnant), though he won’t appear at all in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Hank assures Jean Louise that no one saw, but she insists on being taken home. Finally Hank just pulls out the false bosoms and throws them as hard as he can off into the night. Hank says she looks better without them, and they go back in and dance more. When Hank 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.
This is probably the beginning of Jean Louise and Hank’s romance, so we see just how much history their relationship has behind it. Without this memory, the reader wouldn’t be very invested in Jean Louise’s disillusionment with Hank and the possibility of their marriage.
The next morning the school principal, a humorless man named Mr. Tuffett, calls an assembly. All the students gather, and he delivers a speech about the importance of respecting our soldiers. Everyone is confused. He says that he knows who is responsible for defiling the honor of the soldiers, and that the guilty party should confess to him that day. Finally Mr. Tuffett leads them outside and points to the billboard listing the names of the Maycomb students who are now at war. Hanging over the words are Jean Louise’s false bosoms.
This flashback essentially revolves around another humorous misunderstanding Scout finds herself in the middle of, and so in one sense it is Lee practicing for Mockingbird and building up its world and tone. At the same time, these flashbacks are rather tangential to both the plot and the themes of the text beyond establishing Maycomb as her home, with an accumulation of memories, and a portrayal of the sorts of personal preferences and morals that seemed more innocent.
Jean Louise is torn about whether she should confess or not, and how to explain that this was an accident. Hank offers to confess instead, but Jean Louise gets angry at him for trying to “protect” her. Finally Hank gets an idea, and he borrows Jem’s car and drives off. Later that day Hank finds Jean Louise and tells her to submit a confession in writing to Mr. Tuffett. Jean Louise does so, worried about what will happen.
Hank has always been a protective figure for Jean Louise, which shows why she feels so comfortable around him and also helps explain why he might consider himself Jean Louise’s “true owner.”
Jean Louise goes to submit her confession and finds Mr. Tuffett angry to receive it. She then sees that he has already received a hundred other confessions, signed by almost every girl in the school, all of them worded the same as Jean Louise’s. Mr. Tuffett angrily dismisses her. That night 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.
Atticus saves the day, as he often does in Jean Louise’s memory. Again in this memory Atticus does not give in to the cheap moralizers who pay no attention to the humanity of individuals, giving more credence to her idea of him as a saintlike figure around whom she has built her conscience and personality.
Jean Louise returns suddenly to the present, feeling disillusioned and disconnected from all of the people in her memories. She knows that these people are her family and Maycomb is her home, but at the same time she doesn’t belong to them at all—she feels like just “a stranger at a cocktail party.”
Lee’s writing is poignant and poetic here as she captures the feelings of disillusionment Jean Louise feels, and how she no longer feels a sense of belonging even in her own happy memories.