Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman Summary and Analysis of Part V (Chapters 13-14)

Summary of Part V (Chapters 13-14)

Jean Louise tries to sneak in past Aunt Alexandra, but to no avail. Aunt Alexandra has planned a “coffee” afternoon for Jean Louise to re-socialize with the women in town. Aunt Alexandra also yells at her niece for visiting Calpurnia, saying “nobody in Maycomb goes to see Negroes any more, not after what they’ve been doing to us” (166). Aunt Alexandra references the shiftlessness of the black population, as well as the NAACP’s work on civil rights.

The women set up for the coffee and Jean Louise finds that she cannot connect with any of the women anymore. She separates them into categories by age and where the women are in life, but has difficulties carrying on conversations with any of them. She is also appalled by the general pervasive racism in her community reflected in the women’s views and speech.

The three women she calls “Perennial Hopefuls” are girls who simply never were able to find suitable husbands. One of them, Sarah Finley, once refused to play with a young Jean Louise because Jean Louise was seen as “too rough.” Jean Louise contemplates that now they are both lonely, for different reasons, and yet loneliness itself feels the same.

She talks to a woman named Hester Sinclair, who talks about how blacks are trying to “mongrelize” the race. When Jean Louise points out that “mongrelizing” is a concept that involves two races to actually occur, the women cease to understand her, since they only want to understand what they want to internalize.

Jean Louise then talks to a young woman named Claudine MacDowell, who asks her about New York. Claudine is surprised that Jean Louise is so color-blind as to not “notice” non-whites in public spaces and not attempt to avoid these people. Claudine talks about her husband’s visit to New York, and internally Jean Louise recognizes the provinciality of people like Claudine, who fail to see the difference between city life and country life, and the benefits that a large city can offer.

After the exhausting coffee, Jean Louise goes to visit Uncle Jack. She hopes that her uncle can shed more light on why the views of those she loves have changed. They talk about Uncle Jack’s cat, Rose Aylmer, and Jean Louise comments several times, internally and verbally, on Uncle Jack’s strange habits. These strange habits include Uncle Jack’s “intellectual shorthand,” or the way he speaks in short bits and references. Jean Louise demands, right off the bat and in extreme language, to know why her father is acting the way he is. Uncle Jack leads his niece to first consider Maycomb County and what kind of place it is.

Jean Louise talks with her uncle in seeming circles about individuality and the preservation of individualism in the South without fully understanding what he means. As she leaves, he picks up the telephone, most likely to call Atticus and tell him that his daughter is on the warpath.

Analysis of Part V (Chapters 13-14)

This part is very heavy on dialogue, exposition, and information. It provides the deeper look into Maycomb’s ideologies and what Jean Louise is able to see of its residents’ inner workings and thought processes. It contains a lot of inner dialogue, particularly during the coffee with the Maycomb ladies. Jean Louise begins by asking rhetorical questions to herself: “Why doesn’t their flesh creep? How can they devoutly believe everything they hear in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up?” (167). As she listens to the women talk, their conversation pieces become increasingly fragmented and nonsensical in Jean Louise’s perception—nonsensical just like their fractured beliefs.

When one woman asks Jean Louise “HOW’S NEW YORK?” (177), Jean Louise embarks on an extended interior monologue of everything she really wants to say to these women, including that she was raised “by a black women and a white man” (179), referring, of course, to Calpurnia. This passage ends with her ironic spoken words, “New York? It’ll always be there” (179). This simple utterance is also not as simple as it first appears. The same way that New York will “always be there,” so Maycomb will “always be there,” or at least always in Jean Louise’s heart, as a part of her upbringing and her individuality. This is the same way that certain ideologies and possible prejudices will remain in certain people for as long as they live.

Visiting Uncle Jack is one of the most informative parts of the book, but features a lot of dropped or delivered information from this man, Atticus’s brother, who, in a way, replaces the Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird in Go Set a Watchman. Uncle Jack taught Jean Louise much of what she actually knows, since her public education was not of good quality, and his educational ways are the reason why she often makes allusions to literature, or even outright quotations, throughout the text of the book. He is eccentric, incredibly intelligent, and characterized as a “Victorian aesthete.” Early in their discussion that afternoon, Jean Louise notes, “I didn’t know you had half-glasses, Uncle Jack” (184). This reference to glasses (an important part of seeing clearly; Atticus, too, wears them) is a metaphorical way of expressing Jean Louise’s views on her uncle: she cannot see him as completely right, but does agree with his views enough to come to him seeking guidance.

Jean Louise uses extreme rhetoric right off the bat, saying, “I don’t care what it is, Uncle Jack, if you’ll only tell me what’s turned my father into a nigger-hater” (188). In trying to explain to her the ideologies of Maycomb, Uncle Jack circumvents direct ways of explanation, and instead asks her to “Consider Maycomb County… It’s typical South. Has it never struck you as being singular that nearly everybody in this county is either kin or almost kin to everybody else?” (189). When Jean Louise keeps trying to seek the connection between her question and Uncle Jack’s apparent answer, her uncle tells her that she has “never opened [her] eyes” (190), which is ironic and important because of how often Jean Louise accuses others of being blind.

Uncle Jack further uses the image and simile of birth to explain what is going on around them, saying, “Human birth is most unpleasant. It’s messy, it’s extremely painful, sometimes it’s a risky thing. It is always bloody. So is it with civilization. The south’s in its last agonizing birth pain” (199-200). Uncle Jack’s statement holds true of Jean Louise’s private battle, as well. Before she leaves, he stands her in front of a mirror and tells her that he sees “two people” (201). He means that Jean Louise is still becoming her own person, and that she is still painfully separating her sense of conscience, morality, and individuality from that of her father’s.