Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman Quotes and Analysis

Henry, I'll have an affair with you, but I won't marry you.

Jean Louise Finch, p. 14

Much to her lover’s chagrin, Jean Louise is a fiercely independent young woman who understands what she will give up by marrying Henry. She will lose her individuality, which is something she first has to find throughout the course of this story.

Well, as a general rule, most women, before they’ve got ‘em, present to their men smiling, agreeing faces. They hide their thoughts. You now, when you’re feeling hateful, honey, you are hateful.

Henry Clinton, p. 15

Said to Jean Louise by Henry Clinton, the quote illustrates their contrasting ideas of gender. Gender role tensions are high now as times are changing.

Now look, Jean Louise, if you had a daughter what would you want for her? Nothing but the best, naturally.

Alexandra Finch, p. 35

Although Alexandra and Jean Louise disagree very often, Jean Louise fails to realize that her aunt cares for her in a deep familial way, almost to the point of motherhood. Jean Louise will learn, throughout the story, how to see from others’ perspectives, as a mother would have to do. It is also difficult for her to think of motherhood, since she has no first-hand experiences with it, as she grew up motherless.

You can almost reach up and touch [the sky], it’s so close.

Jean Louise Finch, p. 75

Jean Louise is also a girl with ambition and with ability; she has escaped to New York from Maycomb. By attempting to “touch the sky,” she calls to mind how she has, in some ways, touched the sky by leaving Maycomb for New York, but she also reflects how close and compact everything feels in Maycomb.

I don’t know if I can tell you, honey. When you live in New York, you often have the feeling that New York’s not the world. I mean this: every time I come home, I feel like I’m coming back to the world, and when I leave Maycomb it’s like leaving the world. It’s silly. I can’t explain it, and what makes it sillier is that I’d go stark raving living in Maycomb.

Jean Louise Finch, pp. 75-76

Maycomb is a microcosm, and when Jean Louise comes back, it sucks her right back in. When Jean Louise is in New York, she is only a small part of the city, but back in Maycomb everything is on a much smaller scale and the limited, narrow-minded views of its residents also render it a smaller space. Because so many of its residents are narrow-minded and have only seen Maycomb, their conception of the world is exactly that: just Maycomb.

For thus hath the Lord said unto me: Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

Mr. Stone, p. 95

Mr. Stone, the unfriendly minister, delivers the eponymous line of the book. Taken from the book of Isaiah, Mr. Stone never actually explains why he chose this Bible verse to read. However, it gives room for Uncle Jack to later tell Jean Louise that the watchman of each man is his conscience, which only sees of the world what it chooses to, or what it can, see.

Gentlemen, if there’s one slogan in this world I believe, it is this: equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Atticus Finch, p. 108

Recalled by Jean Louise as she sits in the courtroom balcony, Atticus once proclaimed during his trial for a black man the equality of civil rights. Jean Louise feels immensely betrayed by this memory and the current happenings below her in the Citizens’ Council gathering. Readers of To Kill a Mockingbird will also recognize this famous line as a resonating aphorism of Lee’s earlier book.

I was talking about the—you know, the trashy people. The mean who keep Negro women and that kind of thing.

Hester Sinclair, p. 177

Hester is the quintessential example of the narrow-minded, shallow residents of Maycomb who only listen to what others say and do not explore the world with their own consciences. She follows the times, calling white men who love black women “trash,” despite Jean Louise pointing out that, in the past, rich white slave owners could take black women whenever they wanted. Furthermore, Hester herself is not far from trash, but the unequal relationship between blacks and whites allow her to feel superior socially.

Melbourne said once, that the only real duties of government were to prevent crime and preserve contracts, to which I will add one thing since I find myself reluctantly in the twentieth century: and to provide for the common defense… [This statement] leaves us with so much freedom.

Dr. Finch (Uncle Jack), p. 199

Uncle Jack tries to explain the Citizens’ Council to Jean Louise as much as he tries to explain Maycomb to her. He makes the general claim about government’s responsibilities, recalling that Maycomb’s primary preoccupation “was government,” and puts forth the idea that states’ rights and a certain autonomy is necessary. This autonomy is necessary even on a personal level.

I don’t know why you can’t. Hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as anybody.

Atticus Finch, p. 235

When Atticus finds Jean Louise and Henry near his office, he takes his daughter in to talk to her. His statement qualifies what Jean Louise was just saying to Henry, and how she could not bear to live with a hypocrite. He says this, and all his arguments later, too, in order to help Jean Louise realize that she too must be a hypocrite; they are all bigots, unaccepting of other people’s viewpoints, and in reality, it is very difficult to practice what one believes.