Go Set a Watchman

by: Harper Lee

Important Quotations Explained

1
She was almost in love with him. No, that’s impossible, she thought: either you are or you aren’t. Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal. There are different kinds of love, certainly, but it’s a you-do or you-don’t proposition with them all.

This quotation comes from the first chapter, when the reader first learns about Jean Louise’s relationship with Henry Clinton. Jean Louise and Henry have an on-again-off-again thing going on. Whenever Jean Louise comes home to visit Maycomb, she and Henry date each other seriously for those few weeks, but when Jean Louise is in New York, they don’t appear to stay in touch very regularly. Jean Louise feels comfortable in a state of transition and flux with Henry. When she hasn’t pinned down her emotions precisely, she can live in both states at once, and she doesn’t have to make an irrevocable decision that will sway her life decisively in one direction or the other. Jean Louise’s self-imposed ideas about love don’t really come from any experience, or from any real guidance. Even though Jean Louise spends much of the novel in spaces of transition, she still maintains the perception that love must be a black-and-white (no pun intended) binary.

Jean Louise’s relationship with Henry mirrors her ambivalence towards Maycomb. Whenever Jean Louise returns back home to Maycomb, she remembers why she feels so at home in this place. Even though she might not agree with everything politically and philosophically, Jean Louise’s whole family is rooted in Maycomb and the surrounding area, and she feels ties to the community that extend farther and deeper than her own lifetime. But Jean Louise also feels like an outsider in Maycomb. Her views don’t fit into what the community primarily believes, and she doesn’t fill any conventional role. And even though she argues against the conventional wisdom about love, she recognizes that ultimately, she can only maintain a halfway relationship with both Henry and Maycomb for a finite length of time. Either she will have to commit to marry Henry and settle in Maycomb, or she will have to reject Henry. Rejecting Henry doesn’t necessarily mean that she can’t live in Maycomb, but since the two are very intertwined, it’s sometimes difficult for her to perceive a future in Maycomb in which she is not married to Henry.