Summary of Part VII (Chapters 18-19)
Jean Louise rushes home after her argument with Atticus, and begins packing to leave, despite having ten days of her vacation left. Aunt Alexandra interrupts her and asks if she had had a fight with Atticus. When Jean Louise confirms this, her aunt tells her that “No Finch runs” (258). This prompts Jean Louise to lash out at Aunt Alexandra, and make her cry. After apologizing, Jean Louise calls her aunt a “lady,” admitting that she herself is not much of one. Despite this conflict with her aunt, Jean Louise is still bent on leaving, and rushes out the door.
Uncle Jack has driven his car to the house, and tries to stop Jean Louise in the driveway. She plans on driving Atticus’s car to the station, and says that he can come and get it himself, afterwards. Uncle Jack tells his niece that she needs to start listening and stop feeling sorry for herself.
When she only continues to argue with him, he slaps her twice on the face and brings her back into the house. He gives her some whiskey to drink, and talks to her about how she is finally becoming her own person now. Calming her down and explaining the need for tolerance, Uncle Jack is able to help Jean Louise realize both the necessity and unnecessariness of the words she flung at her father.
Jean Louise says that she finally has an idea of what Uncle Jack had been trying to say to her earlier that afternoon. She realizes that her relatives have all been calling each other to give updates on where she has been, both physically and emotionally. Uncle Jack asks her, “Have you never heard of the telephone?” (263). Jean Louise finally realizes that things are now “bearable,” saying that she is finally able to accept the way things are, now, after her long day.
Uncle Jack explains that it is now bearable because has become her own person. He says that either she herself or Atticus had to kill her in order for Jean Louise to become her own person. He explains that Atticus, too, was broken down, at least in Jean Louise’s eyes. This had to happen because he needed to no longer be a god in her eyes. He let her hurtful words hit him because he knew that she needed it.
Jean Louise drives her uncle home, and agrees to let Hank down easy in her refusal to marry him. Jean Louise feels extremely apologetic and terrible about what she said and did to Atticus, but Uncle Jack reminds her that her father is a lawyer and has undoubtedly seen worse.
Jean Louise goes back to the office, and makes a date arrangement with Henry for the night, and then sees her father. She begins to tell him that she is sorry, but he says that he is proud of his daughter for standing up for what she believes in. They leave to go home, and Jean Louise is careful not to bump her head as they get into the car.
Analysis of Part VII (Chapters 18-19)
The last part of Go Set a Watchman is a fast denouement (resolution) unraveling the tightly wound emotions and sociopolitical thoughts of the climax. At the center of this story’s resolution is Jean Louise’s humanization of others. This begins with her aunt, who watches her furiously pack to leave in her anger. Although Jean Louise and Aunt Alexandra have never gotten along, Jean Louise does not realize that she treats Aunt Alexandra as an emotionless figure in her life until she makes her aunt cry by calling her names. Jean Louise, who had “never seen Alexandra cry,” notes that her aunt “looked like other people when she cried” (258).
After Uncle Jack slaps her in the driveway, he asks his niece to “Open your eyes, Jean Louise” (260), coming full circle with the motif of the necessity of opening one’s eyes to tolerance. He recognizes that earlier that afternoon he used a roundabout way to talk to her, saying that it was to “soften [her] coming into this world” (263)—thus also taking the simile of birth and birthing pains to completion.
He calls her a bigot, although she is “only a turnip-sized one” (269). He also further clarifies the title of the book and Mr. Stone’s Bible verse reference. He says, “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious” (265), again emphasizing the need for personal identity.
When Jean Louise finds out that everyone has already been talking about her and her emotional development behind her back, she is almost shocked. Uncle Jack’s reminds her that the telephone exists, asking, “Have you never heard of the telephone?... You telegraph your pitches all over the place, Jean Louise” (263). This is another demonstration of how difficult change, in the symbol of technology, is for Jean Louise to accept. Uncle Jack also uses the term “telegraph” in the next sentence when speaking of what Jean Louise herself does, a small allusion to how Jean Louise still clings to outdated forms of communication and stubborn beliefs that she has known all her life.
After reconciling with Atticus, Jean Louise “welcomed him silently to the human race” (278), thus seeing him as the human he is, and not the god she once made him. Jean Louise’s final evasion of bumping her head shows that she has finally come to terms with change—the smaller cars—but also with the things that do not change and do not give, like the hard frame of the door. Getting into the car and going home plays the dual functions of homecoming and coming full circle to accepting her unbreakable ties with Maycomb. It also marks the beginning of a new leg of her journey with her family.