“Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose” (3). The opening scene of Go Set a Watchman is striking, and carefully re-introduces To Kill a Mockingbird readers to the landscape of the South. Instead of a haunted, decayed Gothic feel, however, the modern day has inserted technology into the calm landscapes, and Jean Louise’s racial color-blindness is revealed when she sees that even the poor Southern blacks are able to afford TV antennae.
“The pleasant, remotely masculine smell of him hit her when he walked into the hall, but shaving cream tobacco, new car, and dusty books faded at the memory of the conversation in the kitchen. Suddenly she put her arms around his waist and nuzzled her head in his chest” (39). Jean Louise’s description of Henry shows how much she loves him, even just as a friend, much more than simply writing the words: “She loved him.” This passage employs multiple physical senses, as well as mental workings, as Henry’s appearance is still not enough to cure away Aunt Alexandra’s disapproval of him.
Dog Days in Maycomb
“Dog days in Maycomb meant at least one revival, and one was in progress that week… Revival time was a time of war: war on sin, Coca-Cola, picture shows, hunting on Sunday; war on the increasing tendency of young women to paint themselves and smoke in public; war on drinking whiskey—in this connection at least fifty children per summer went to the altar and swore they would not drink, smoke, or curse until they were twenty-one; war on something so nebulous Jean Louise never could figure out what it was, except there was nothing to swear concerning it; and war among the town’s ladies over who could set the best table for the evangelist” (60). Lee prefaces Jean Louise’s first flashback to childhood by saying, “Somehow, then, it was always summer” (54), and goes on to describe the summer heat and haziness through the images she describes. These images can be lists, like this passage, or through the actions that the children perform during the summer days. This long list of the revivals’ effects on Maycomb compares these effects to war, and gives readers a better sense of what kind of tension existed then.
“On any other day she would have stood barefoot on the wet grass listening to the mockingbirds’ early service; she would have pondered over the meaninglessness of silent, austere beauty renewing itself with every sunrise and going ungazed at by half the world. She would have walked beneath yellow-ringed pines rising to a brilliant eastern sky, and her sense would have succumbed to the joy of the morning” (142). In the morning after discovering her father’s presence on the Citizens’ Council, Jean Louise is unable to fully appreciate the natural beauty around her. However, Lee still provides her readers this description in order to show how piteous it is that Jean Louise is also missing out on all of this because of her bitterness.
“Calpurnia was sitting in a wooden rocking chair in a corner of the room by the fireplace. The room contained an iron bedstead covered with a faded quilt of a Double Wedding Ring pattern. There were three huge gilt-framed photographs of Negroes and a Coca-Cola calendar on the wall. A rough mantelpiece teemed with small bright objets d’art made of plaster, porcelain, clay, and milk glass. A naked light bulb burned on a cord swinging from the ceiling, casting sharp shadows on the wall behind the mantelpiece, and in the corner where Calpurnia sat” (158). Calpurnia has just been described in Jean Louise’s dreams before this, and her image now is starkly different from those of Jean Louise’s memories. The description of the houses especially utilizes images of nature, such as the “roughness” of the mantelpiece, the clay present on the ledge, and a “naked” light bulb swung from the ceiling. Calpurnia’s down-to-earth nature was such an important and vital part of Jean Louise’s upbringing that such descriptions are appropriate.
Go Set a Watchman Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Go Set a Watchman is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.