Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee
Summary

Part I

Summary Part I

Alexandra announces, to Jean Louise’s chagrin, that she is hosting a Coffee for her, which is a gathering of Maycomb ladies to scrutinize someone who has moved away. Jean Louise casually asks what Alexandra would think if Jean Louise married Henry, and Alexandra replies that Henry’s background isn’t quite up to the standards of the Finch family. When Jean Louise retorts that Atticus would love the match, Alexandra snaps back that Henry will never be suitable, which makes Jean Louise even more piqued. Henry picks her up for a Saturday evening date.

ANALYSIS

Even though Jean Louise has grown up and lives independently, she is still deeply connected to her roots in Maycomb. By taking a train from New York City to Maycomb, Jean Louise is not only traveling through space, she’s also traveling through time. The town is steeped in layers of memories and nostalgia. But Jean Louise does not just have a beautiful, rosy recollection of life in Maycomb. She knows that she’s moved forward with her life in many respects, and that she does not share the same values and goals as people still living there. But Jean Louise is still inextricably tethered to Maycomb in a deep way. Maycomb will always be her home, even though home might be a very uncomfortable place to be.

Jean Louise’s ancestors haunt Maycomb. Her family has lived in or near Maycomb for several generations, so all of her roots are firmly planted in this spot.

From the moment Jean Louise gets off the train, there is the hint that things are starting to change, since her old childhood friend / crush / lover Henry Clinton picks her up from the station. In the past, Atticus had always come to fetch her. Now, Henry fills the role of primary protector in Jean Louise’s life. Atticus can no longer be the guardian figure in Jean Louise’s life. She must grow up and develop her own familial relationships.

The relationship between Jean Louise and Henry is…complicated. They’re definitely more than just friends, but they’re not exactly a couple, since they only see each other once a year. They date regularly and seem very seriously together in the two weeks Jean Louise comes to visit, but it seems like they don’t really communicate that much for the rest of the year. Throughout the novel, Henry is consistent about what he wants from their relationship. Henry would like to marry Jean Louise and have her settle down with him in Maycomb. Jean Louise, on the other hand, is deeply conflicted. On the one hand, she does love Henry, but on the other, she’s not ready to settle down and marry him, and she’s not sure that they’re ultimately right for each other.

Jean Louise’s conflict about her relationship with Henry mirrors her complicated relationship with Maycomb itself. Although she feels like her opinions often directly oppose the majority view of people in town, she also knows that Maycomb is her home.