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Go Set a Watchman

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Quotes

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Quote 5

That’s the one thing about here, the South, you’ve missed. You’d be amazed if you knew how many people are on your side, if side’s the right word. You’re no special case. The woods are full of people like you, but we need some more of you.

This quotation is from Chapter 18, when Uncle Jack is lecturing Jean Louise for lashing out against Atticus. Uncle Jack explains to Jean Louise that she might try giving people in Maycomb more credit. Jean Louise feels like everyone in the South is racist, unable to look past his or her prejudices. Jean Louise has a tendency to dramatize the world into all-or-nothing scenarios, and she has trouble seeing shades of gray, so when somebody says or does something that hints at racist tendencies, she immediately labels that person as a bigot. But Uncle Jack reminds Jean Louise that even though she feels like she’s completely on her own against the group, she’s not actually alone in her beliefs. After all, Jean Louise’s beliefs didn’t arise out of nowhere. If she let herself listen to others, Uncle Jack suggests, she might be surprised to learn how many people have similar opinions.

Uncle Jack’s reference to “the woods” has many layers of symbolism. Uncle Jack literally refers, on one level, to the actual woods. Maycomb County is a rural area, and many country people who live in the woods seem as though they hold backward, old-fashioned views about the world. However, Uncle Jack points out that one of the reasons that many people might be afraid to share their true opinions is that they lack the language to do so or a spokesperson to lead the way. Jean Louise, he suggests, can serve as the town’s watchman to help them see what they already know to be right. The woods also frequently appear in Shakespeare as places of danger, magic, or both. The idea that the woods might be full of people like Jean Louise represents a romantic notion of the South as a land full of potential wonder. The woods suggest both an idyllic past and an unknown future.