Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman Literary Elements


Historical Fiction

Setting and Context

Maycomb, Alabama in the 1950s

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person limited, with some digressions into the consciousness of other characters (particularly Henry Clinton)

Tone and Mood

Straightforward, slightly disillusioned, mature

Protagonist and Antagonist

Jean Louise Finch is the protagonist. There is no clear antagonist, but for some of the story, antagonism is projected onto Atticus Finch, the protagonist’s father.

Major Conflict

Jean Louise Finch, who believes in racial equality, finds that her father attends white supremacist Citizens’ Council meetings and is not all of the god and hero she once thought he was.


Jean Louise and Atticus argue over their conflicting beliefs in his office in the second to last part of the book. While Atticus remains calm and does not retaliate, Jean Louise is furious, and ends up storming out. Later, father and daughter reconcile in the resolution.


Jean Louise finds out about Atticus’ and Henry’s participations in the Citizens’ Council meeting because of a racist pamphlet she finds in the living room, which foreshadows what she then learns about their tolerances.

On a separate note, Henry constantly proposes to Jean Louise, and she constantly flirts with both him and the idea, but ultimately decides not to marry him. This is hinted at from their very first conversation, where she says she wishes to play around until she is older, and then when her aunt says that Henry is “not her kind.”




Many literary and philosophical references are made between Jean Louise and her Uncle Jack. These occur frequently and are more a pattern interwoven into the text than singular incidents requiring deeper analysis. Biblical references are fewer and more significant, and these include Henry saying he is “like Israel of Old” (14), having labored seven years for Jean Louise, and when Uncle Jack says to his niece, “No machine, when crushed to powder, puts itself together again and ticks, but those dry bones rose up and marched” (195) (the “dry bones” is a less explicit Biblical reference to Ezekiel 37). Uncle Jack also references Aldous Huxley’s science fiction work Brave New World (1932) by calling America a “brave new Atomic world” while the South is “just beginning its Industrial Revolution” (198).


See Imagery section. Harper Lee stays true to some of the elements of Southern Gothic that are noted in To Kill a Mockingbird, but these elements are less prominent or purposeful in Go Set a Watchman.


The ignorant women at Jean Louise’s coffee use the term “passive resistance” (176), and mock the peaceful Civil Rights black protestors in the North. While the term and concept do sound paradoxical at first, history has shown that it worked in the United States’ Civil Rights movement, and in other cases as well.

Also, Uncle Jack uses the South’s paradox of “fighting together for different causes” during the Civil War to try to further illustrate to his niece the importance of her individuality. "No matter what its political bonds, a nation with its own people, existing within a nation? A society highly paradoxical, with alarming inequities, but with the private honor of thousands of persons winking like lightning bugs through the night? No war was ever fought for so many different reasons meeting in one reason clear as crystal. They fought to preserve their identity. Their political identity, their personal identity” (196).


See section on Allegory.

Metonymy and Synecdoche