Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman Summary and Analysis of Part III (Chapters 6-10)

Summary of Part III (Chapters 6-10)

Aunt Alexandra wakes Jean Louise up by yelling, saying that residents saw her and Henry swimming naked in the river last night. The town gossip Mary Webster had called and told Alexandra, and Jean Louise tells Aunt Alexandra that Mary Webster is probably worse for watching them. Atticus and Alexandra realize that she wasn’t naked, but her Aunt is still peeved.

The family goes to church, and Dr. John Hale Finch, or Uncle Jack, Jean Louise’s eccentric uncle, makes his first appearance. Dr. Finch is short, about the same height as Jean Louise, at 5 foot 7 inches. When Uncle Jack chose to go into medicine, Atticus borrowed as much money as he could for his younger brother’s education. His investments were returned in how successful Jack eventually became. Uncle Jack is also very intelligent, and has a special love for Victorian literature.

Throughout the service, Jean Louise notes that the young minister, Mr. Stone, is dull and possibly liberal. The music director, a Herbert Jemson, leads a new way of singing the Doxology that is not well-received. Uncle Jack and Jean Louise go to talk to Herbert about this after service.

Jean Louise intends to visit Uncle Jack that afternoon, but going home, she waits a bit and sees off Atticus and Henry as they go to their “citizens’ council meeting.” She finds a pamphlet in the living room about the inferiority of black people, and throws it away talking to Aunt Alexandra. Aunt Alexandra condones the racist material of the pamphlet, and tells Jean Louise about the Citizens’ Council meetings.

The Citizens’ Councils are actually gatherings of white supremacists. Jean Louise discovers them in the courthouse, and sits on the balcony where she once watched Atticus defend Tom Robinson from rape (the black folks also sat on the balcony during that trial.) Jean Louise recalls the story of this old case that her father had won, including the white fourteen-year-old girl who had been the supposed victim, and how the black boy Atticus defended had had only one arm, the other chopped off in a sawmill accident.

Jean Louise watches the despicable William Willoughby, a “political symbol of everything her father and men like him despised” (105), and a guest speaker Mr. Grady O’Hanlon, who uses the degrading n-word many times in his speech for white supremacy. Jean Louise is numbed and horrified by this experience as she watches Atticus and Henry stand there and passively condone men like O’Hanlon. She runs out of the building and stops at her old house, where a homemade ice cream shop now stands. She buys vanilla ice cream and sits in the back, where it melts.

Jean Louise recalls Atticus from her childhood, as well as the history of her immediate family. Her mother died from a heart attack, which was the same fate that befell Jem just two years before the story’s current events. Jean Louise notes to herself that she has always worshiped her father, and cannot believe that he is now doing something so wrong, something so different from her own beliefs. The ice cream shop owner talks briefly to her, and she cannot remember who he is, even when he reminds her that he is one of the “Cunninghams.” Jean Louise skips visiting her uncle, and returns home feeling unwell. She falls asleep quickly.

Analysis of Part III (Chapters 6-10)

When Aunt Alexandra hears from gossipy neighbors false accounts of Jean Louise and Henry’s night, she tells her niece, “Your father will die, simply die, when he finds out” (86). Ironically, this is the same language Lee uses for Jean Louise’s own internal feelings when she sees her father at the courtroom later that afternoon. Jean Louise keeps saying that she feels as though she is “dying.”

In church, Jean Louise’s observations of Minister Stone and her father’s saying, “We asked for bread and they gave us a Stone” (95), are reflective of the significance of the motif of stones in the book. Stones do not budge and hold their place in the ground firmly; they are hard to break—just like the ingrained ideologies in both the residents of Maycomb and in Jean Louise herself. Mr. Stone is also the speaker of the line which lends the book its title; he preaches from Isaiah 21:6, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me,/Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth” (95). The watchman may refer to, on first glance, Atticus and his conscience and the way he watches over the town of Maycomb. However, on later reflection, Uncle Jack will also explain that each individual person’s conscience is his or her watchman.

Before going to the Citizens’ Council meeting, Jean Louise thinks about how the New York papers would call her people trash. The concept of people as trash is a motif and point of tension throughout the novel. Aunt Alexandra calls Henry Clinton trash. White people used to call black people trash, and still do at the time of the story, if not always openly. At the Citizen’s Council meeting, Jean Louise feels sick, and “every nerve in her body shrieked, then died. She was numb” (111). She is dying from shame for those she loves, but not public shame—private shame. She feels betrayed by the man who is described by the three words “integrity, humor, and patience” (114). Atticus, as Jean Louise describes him, had a “secret of living so simple it was deeply complex… His private character was his public characters” (114). By realizing that she always asked herself “What would Atticus do?” (117), Jean Louise realizes also that she “worshiped [her father]” (118).

Jean Louise is especially affected by Atticus’s perceived betrayal, because she has only ever really had one parent. Calpurnia was her foster or adoptive mother, but Jean Louise was mostly raised by her father, and “had never known her mother, and she never knew what a mother was” (116). In her closeness to Atticus, she “rarely felt the need of one” (116). Jean Louise’s first menstruation was taken care of and explained to her by Calpurnia, and she despised the idea of entering a world of femininity. As a child, “it had never fully occurred to Jean Louise that she was a girl” (116), since she spent so much time being active and using her physical prowess alongside boys, such as her brother and Henry. All of this close identification with Atticus makes their divergent beliefs extremely painful.

That night, as Jean Louise falls asleep, Lee describes her as “born color blind” (122), which is a phrase of culmination of all of the other references to sight and blindness mentioned up until now. It also makes sense of the color motifs that frequently refer to whiteness, blackness, and grayness. While Jean Louise is color blind, however, the rest of her family is not, despite an earlier statement from Atticus that he, too, is “blind,” saying “I’m your man, then. From the looks of you, Miss Priss, it’ll be the blind leading the blind” (23), which was in reference to his inability to play golf anymore.