Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Go Set a Watchman

author  Harper Lee

type of work  Novel

genre  Southern drama; Prodigal child returning home; race relations

language  English

time and place written  Mid-1950s, New York City

date of first publication  July 2015

publisher  HarperCollins

narrator  The narrator is anonymous, but the story is from the perspective of Jean Louise the whole time.

point of view  The narrator speaks in the third person, focusing almost exclusively on what Jean Louise sees and hears. Sometimes, the narrator slips into free indirect discourse, presenting Jean Louise’s thoughts. When the narrator presents a flashback, it is still in the third person, even though the flashbacks always occur in Jean Louise’s head.

tone  In the first half of the novel, wistful, nostalgic, somewhat sarcastic, fairly lighthearted; as the novel progresses, bitter, disillusioned, even more nostalgic,

tense  Past

setting (time)  Mid-1950s

setting (place)  Maycomb, Alabama

protagonist  Jean Louise Finch

major conflict  Jean Louise sees her father, Atticus, voluntarily attending a meeting of an organization promoting white supremacy and racism. Jean Louise had always upheld Atticus as a paragon of moral excellence, and his hypocrisy stuns her.

rising action  Jean Louise compares her childhood in Maycomb to the present situation and feels as though all of the values that Atticus has taught her have been undermined by his hypocritical actions.

climax  Uncle Jack slaps Jean Louise to make her recognize that Atticus is neither a god-like paragon nor a horrible hypocrite, but merely a normal human being.

falling action  Jean Louise snaps out of her rage and realizes that she has reacted irrationally to Atticus’s behavior, and instead of feeling as though her idol has betrayed her forever, Jean Louise can finally see that human beings are deeply complex and fall on a long spectrum between good and evil.

themes  The Pervasiveness of Hypocrisy. The Depth of Family Ties

motifs  Flashbacks. Individual Versus Group

symbols  Watchman. Cars.

foreshadowing  Atticus’s arthritis and physical deficiencies foreshadow his moral imperfection; the scene in which Atticus plants the seed of Henry’s idea to help Jean Louise foreshadows Uncle Jack’s eventual success at changing Jean Louise’s mind about Atticus; the scene in which the black community rallies around Calpurnia’s family foreshadows the flashback in which the students at school support Jean Louise against injustice; the very quickly careening car filled with a crowd of young black people foreshadows racial tensions and changes occurring in race relations in the South.