Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman Irony

Maycomb's Appearance

“Although Maycomb’s appearance had changed, the same hearts beat in new houses, over Mixmasters, in front of television sets. One could whitewash all he please, and put up comic neon signs, but the aged timbers stood strong under their additional burden” (46). Lee’s choice of the word “whitewash” is intentional. Ironically, although Maycomb has “whitewashed” itself to appear more bourgeois and like an all-white, middle-class society, in reality its history shines through in the “aged timbers,” which bears this false newness like a “burden.” There are unsolved issues here regarding race and socioeconomic equality, and so this veneer of contentedness must weigh like a burden.

Catching a Woman

She grinned. “Don’t you know how to catch a woman, honey?... Women like their men to be masterful and at the same time remote, if you can pull that trick. Make them feel helpless, especially when you know they can pick up a load of light’ud knots with no trouble. Never doubt yourself in front of them, and by no means tell them you don’t understand them” (47). Jean Louise often teases Henry about not understanding each other, and they often banter about women and men at large. However, the irony in this passage exceeds Jean Louise’s obvious sarcasm, and into the importance of understanding others who are different from one’s self. Jean Louise frequently says that she will “never understand men,” and the same is true from men to women.

Sinful in New York

“Henry said, ‘You’re being very wise this evening. Where’d you pick up all this?’ – ‘Living in sin in New York,’ she said. She lighted a cigarette and inhaled deeply. ‘I learned it from watching sleek, Madison Avenuey young marrieds—you know that language, baby?’” (48). Jean Louise exaggerates by saying that she has been “living in sin,” and yet this is ironic because she soon comes to view the ideological perspectives of Maycomb’s residents as wrong—even sinful.

New York and Maycomb

“‘Fletcher said he couldn’t see why on earth people lived in that place when they could have a house and a yard for far less down here.’ – I can tell you. In New York you are your own person. You may reach out and embrace all of Manhattan in sweet aloneness, or you can go to hell if you want to. – ‘Well,’ said Jean Louise, ‘it takes considerable getting used to’” (180). In her excruciating coffee with the ladies, Jean Louise’s narration uses frequent and highly ironic inner dialogue to reveal to readers what she is actually thinking and what she says instead. For example, in this passage she refutes Claudine MacDowell’s statement in a much more abrasive way than what she actually ends up saying.