The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.
This quotation comes at the end of Chapter 8, after Jean Louise has seen Atticus and Henry in the meeting of the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council. In this scene, Jean Louise sneaks up to the Colored balcony of the courthouse to watch the meeting. This balcony is exactly where Jean Louise sat as a child to watch Atticus litigate to defend the one-armed black man accused of rape. In that scenario, Atticus publicly and shamelessly filled Jean Louise with pride. Now, just a few years later, Jean Louise feels as though Atticus’s actions completely undermine everything that he had taught her.
This quotation also demonstrates Jean Louise’s propensity for heightening the drama and implication of events in her life. The three adverbs—“publicly, grossly, and shamelessly”––that modify her emotion emphasize her abundant, irrational, emotional response. Jean Louise lets her flood of feelings wash over her and consume her entirely. She is not able to take things in stride, or to speculate about any of the rationale behind Atticus’s presence at the organization. Instead, she assumes the worst and plunges into the depths of despair.
Even though Jean Louise sees both Atticus and Henry at the meeting, Henry’s presence doesn’t evoke the same intense, sickened reaction that she has regarding Atticus. Although Atticus and Henry have essentially committed the same action, Jean Louise’s core-shaking anger is only focused towards her father. The fact that Jean Louise focuses solely on Atticus and doesn’t even think of Henry suggests that she is not in love with him, or that he is not as profoundly embedded in her own identity as Atticus is. Jean Louise has internalized Atticus’s influence on her and has turned him into a paragon of morality, so when Atticus the human proves to be imperfect, Jean Louise’s internal conception of Atticus also crumbles, since she has not learned to separate them consciously.