Jean Louise goes to Atticus’s office and talks to Hank. He is going out, and she walks with him. She finds herself unable to say anything to him, and feels sad about this. Finally she brings up Hester Sinclair, and how her husband has filled her head with falsehoods. Hank laughs at this and says that she just “loves her man.” Jean Louise asks if loving your man means losing your identity, and Hank admits that it does partly. Jean Louise then straightforwardly tells Hank that she isn’t going to marry him.
After trying to escape into happy memories, Jean Louise now decides to directly confront the people whom she feels have betrayed her. She begins with Hank, the less painful of the two. We see again the sexism underlying much of Hank’s worldview, as he would probably expect Jean Louise to parrot his ideas and give up her own independence if they were married.
Hank first makes light of this, but Jean Louise firmly declares that she doesn’t love him anymore. Hank is clearly hurt, and he asks her what’s the matter. Jean Louise explodes angrily about watching him at the citizens’ council meeting, and how it made her so sick she threw up. Hank tries to calm her down, saying that everyone has to “do a lot of things we don’t want to do.” He assures her that the Maycomb Citizens’ Council is just a sign of resistance to the Supreme Court and “a sort of warning to the negroes for them not to be in such a hurry.”
Hank has a totally different relationship to Jean Louise, and appeals more to her emotional and romantic side, but he makes a similar argument to Uncle Jack: that the citizens’ council and all the racial hatred exhibiting itself there isn’t about black and white people at all, but about the South asserting itself against the North, and the states resisting the federal government.
Jean Louise angrily interrupts until Hank quiets her. He talks about 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 surprised, and Hank goes on that Atticus joined to see what kind of people the Maycomb men were behind their Klan masks. He argues that someone can be part of something unsavory, but you should examine his individual motives before you judge him.
Like Uncle Jack, Hank tries to humanize the face of racial violence, even the members of the KKK. Jean Louise (and the reader) gets another blow of disillusionment to learn that Atticus was also once a member of the KKK, even if Atticus joined not because he agreed with its ideas but because he wanted to understand the people within it. Hank’s arguments are clearly flawed, but the very fact that Lee centers the conflict of her book around such conversations shows the importance she gives to empathy—not just for victims, but even for the victimizers.
Jean Louise asks if this means just going along with the crowd, and Hank says that men (more so than women) “must conform to certain demands of the community they live in simply so they can be of service to it.” He says that his whole life belongs to Maycomb, and so he has to conform to its ways or else lose everything. Hank says that he has had to work for everything he has, and he has nothing to fall back on, unlike Jean Louise.
While Jean Louise has lost her sense of home and belonging because of her conflict of conscience, Hank basically chooses to mold his principles around those of Maycomb, so that he will always be able to feel at home there. He lacks the family name and resources that Jean Louise has, but once again the reader should question whether that excuses his appearance at the citizens’ council.
Hank says that Jean Louise has special privileges because she is a Finch—she can break some of Maycomb’s rules and be forgiven. He cannot. And so he has to uphold his character in Maycomb all the time or else be thought of as “trash.” Jean Louise finally 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.
We have seen the truth of this when Aunt Alexandra called Hank trash no matter what he might do in life. The narrator takes a disapproving tone when describing Jean Louise’s outburst at Hank, but it is basically justified. He, like Atticus, chooses to act on the personal level instead of admitting (or even recognizing) the injustice inherent in many social systems.
Jean Louise starts walking away angrily and Hank follows her, pleading. He asks what she expects him to do, and she says that she wants him to “be a man” and stay out of citizens’ councils. He fought in a war, but then came home and was afraid of Maycomb. Jean Louise concludes 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 anybody.”
Hank’s hypocrisy is painfully obvious, as he complains about being treated as a second-class citizen even as he defends the right to treat blacks as second-class citizens. Atticus finally appears as the figure of reason and empathy that he was in Mockingbird, but now subject to his own scrutiny. In Mockingbird he was calling Scout to empathize with minorities and recluses, but now he (and Lee) ask the harder task of empathizing with the privileged and prejudiced.