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According to town lore, Maycomb is located where it is today because of the cunning maneuvers of a tavern owner in the town’s early days. Maycomb has stayed nearly the same size for 150 years, and since people rarely come but rarely leave, the same families continue to marry each other over and over. The Cunninghams and the Coninghams intermarry so frequently that legal disputes arise over which side of the family is which. Maycomb didn’t even have a paved street until 1935. But after World War II, the town grew and modernized.
As they finish their dinner, Jean Louise and Henry decide to drive out to Finch’s Landing, which is the Finch family’s old plantation, on the river, about twenty miles outside Maycomb. Jean Louise tells Henry about lots of unhappy couples in New York where the wives are insecure and the husbands have affairs.
Jean Louise bumps her head getting into Henry’s car. She and Henry remember a time when they were children and Atticus was driving them to go swimming. Atticus had a roll-top car, and Jem fell out of the car on the way there. They stop for a swig of whisky from an undercover watering hole, and then they head out to Finch’s Landing.
Jean Louise thinks about Henry’s past. Although Henry had gone to law school, his real legal education began when he went to work for Atticus. Henry asks Jean Louise about Dill, the friend who played with Jean Louise and Jem all summer long, when Henry was never around to play with them. Dill went to Europe during World War II and stayed there.
Jean Louise has a flashback to the summer when Jem was eleven. She, Jem, and Dill decide to make up a story about a popular character named Tom Swift. Jem tells Jean Louise and Dill what to say. Calpurnia gives them all lemonade.
Jean Louis, Jem, and Dill decide to re-enact a revival meeting. Visiting preachers often held revivals in the Maycomb churches, and that week, Reverend Moorehead was preaching against sin in the Baptist church. They decide to hold their re-enactment in Dill’s aunt Miss Rachel’s fishpool. Jem plays Reverend Moorehead, and Dill and Jean Louise are the congregation. Jem gives a long sermon about sin, then gives a description of heaven, which is filled with Dill’s and Jean Louise’s favorite foods.
Jean Louise strips off her overalls and gets ready to duck in to the fishpool to be “baptized.” Dill runs into the house and re-emerges in a bed sheet, pretending to be the Holy Ghost. Jem holds Jean Louise under the water. Suddenly, Miss Rachel appears and starts to whip Dill for ruining her bed sheets.
Jem and Jean Louise turn to return home, but when they do, Atticus is standing in the driveway next to Reverend Moorehead and the preacher’s wife. Too late, Jean Louise realizes she’s stark naked. At home, Calpurnia roughly scrubs Jean Louise, scolds her, and shoves her into a dress. Reverend Moorehead and his wife are having dinner at the Finch household. When Reverend Moorehead says grace, he asks the Lord to forgive Jem and Jean Louise because they are motherless children. Atticus goes red in the face and leaves the table abruptly. Jean Louise asks Calpurnia if he’s crying, and Calpurnia announces to the whole table that he’s laughing.
Jean Louise’s flashback ends, and she is back in the car driving with Henry. They arrive at Finch’s Landing. Her old family homestead is now a hunting club. Atticus’s grandfather had bought the house, and Atticus and Alexandra had been born there. Atticus and his siblings all moved into town, and the land got sold off piece by piece. After Jean Louise’s grandmother died, the house stood empty until men from Mobile bought it and turned it into the club.
Jean Louise and Henry race down the steep steps to the docks at the river. Jean Louise describes her conflicted feelings about living in New York versus living in Maycomb, and Henry tells her that at some point, she’ll have to choose. Henry says that he’s thinking about running for the Maycomb County legislature. Jean Louise and Henry kiss, but she doesn’t agree to marry him. Instead, she pushes him into the river, and he pulls her in with him.
When Jean Louise and Henry are driving back to Maycomb, a carload of black people drives by them at high speed. Henry says that black people have enough money to buy cars, but they don’t have driver’s licenses and insurance. Henry drives Jean Louise home, and she falls asleep reading about the Punic War.
Try as Maycomb County might to resist change, the South is going through transitions that are not without growing pains. When Jean Louise bumps her head as she’s getting into Henry’s car, she’s not just being a klutz. Bumping her head on the car symbolically means that she doesn’t fit into the Maycomb world anymore. She also doesn’t fit effortlessly into Henry’s life. Although she and Henry are compatible and enjoy spending time together, Henry does want a certain kind of wife and family to support his respectable, middle-class career, and Jean Louise has grown up to become an independent woman.
The deep traditions and time-honored Southern ways of life, which Maycomb County had clung to even long after Civil War, are finally crumbling. The fact that Finch’s Landing no longer belongs to the Finches represents the family’s own quiet fading. The Finches are no longer a robust Southern dynasty, and their time-honored family reunions are a thing of the past. The sale of Finch’s Landing to the hunting club represents a broader trend in the South during the nineteen-fifties. The family homesteads and old traditions are being thoroughly eradicated and replaced with new businesses and modernization.
Just because Jean Louise’s family doesn’t own Finch’s Landing anymore doesn’t mean that she doesn’t own it in her heart, however. She’ll always have the memories of what this place meant to her while she was growing up. Jean Louise sees Maycomb with a sort of double vision. On the one hand, she recognizes the changes that have happened in the present day. On the other hand, she also sees the town in the same way that she saw it as a child. Finch’s Landing might be technically a hunting club now, but to Jean Louise, it will always symbolize not only her family’s past, but a bygone, genteel way of life.
When Jean Louise has a flashback to her childhood, she’s the age of the protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird. In that later book, which is a re-working of Go Set a Watchman, the entire novel takes place when Jean Louise is a child, and Henry doesn’t exist in the novel as a character. The introduction of Henry into Jean Louise’s life signals her entrance into womanhood. Go Set a Watchman is about a young woman looking back with nostalgia to her past, so every flashback seems wistful. To Kill a Mockingbird is about a child who doesn’t yet know that she should be nostalgic for her past, which makes every scene extremely poignant. To Kill a Mockingbird does take the perspective of a grown-up Jean Louise reminiscing about her youth, but the details of her adult life are never shown, and the primary narrative is of childhood, not adulthood.
In the flashback, Jean Louise, Jem, and Dill take the real events and turn them into a game. As children, they can still remain in their own world and have their own interpretation of life. They are safe from the ugly truths of the real world because they live in their imaginations. And when they do enter reality, they can trust that Atticus will keep them safe.
Throughout Jean Louise’s childhood, Calpurnia had always been a loyal and essential member of the family. Calpurnia both scolds and mothers Jean Louise. It doesn’t matter to Jean Louise whether Calpurnia is black or white, because Jean Louise fears and respects her for her strict and imposing yet compassionate and fiercely proud attitude
The re-enacted church revival scene that Jean Louise remembers foreshadows many of Jean Louise’s present-day character traits. She is still stubborn, rebellious, and wants to keep up with everyone. The way that Jem, Dill, and Jean Louise play games illustrates their childhood dynamic. Jem is the leader, Dill is the creative one who always wants to twist and re-interpret the game, and Jean Louise insists that she can keep up just as well as the rest of them. The childhood dynamic between Jem, Dill, and Jean Louise is different than the adolescent relationship that develops between Jem, Henry, and Jean Louise. Jem and Henry are friends independently of Jean Louise, but Henry and Jean Louise begin to show glimmers of a relationship that goes beyond friendship and doesn’t involve Jem. Jem, for his part, has his own romantic relationships with other girls. The triangle of friendship had equal sides as children, but in adolescence, the nature of the relationships shift.
The fake revival scene reflects many of the ways in which Maycomb still operates. All the members of Maycomb’s various churches go to revival meetings, no matter which church is the host church, which demonstrates Maycomb citizens’ penchant for group decisions and their tendency to think and act as a hive. People in town like to gather in big, like-minded groups, almost regardless of what the group is actually doing.
Young Jean Louise’s dunk in the fishpool also foreshadows her impulsive decision to pull Henry into the river with her at Finch’s Landing. Jean Louise wants to reclaim her past, where she felt safe and felt like she belonged seamlessly. Jean Louise can make the physical leap into the river with Henry, but mentally and emotionally, she’s still deeply conflicted over whether she should leap into their relationship and bond with him for the rest of her life.
The carload of black people that drives past Jean Louise and Henry at high speed is another symbol of the changes happening in the South. Henry, like many white Southerners, is afraid that black people are becoming much too powerful much too quickly in the South, and that their influence will flood society and completely wipe away life as everyone knows it. black people are seen as dangerous, uncontrollable menaces. Jean Louise sees no reason why they should be treated any differently than one would treat white people, but she is definitely in the minority among the society in which she grew up.
The car of black people driving incredibly fast also foreshadows events that happen later in the novel. Zeebo’s son is driving a car and kills a white pedestrian, and Atticus agrees to take his case, mostly to keep the NAACP out of Maycomb. Race relations are careening out of control in the town.
Throughout Go Set a Watchman, cars often symbolize transition and moments of not fitting in. Jean Louise frequently bumps her head as she enters cars in Maycomb, suggesting both her inability to fit in and her resistance to getting swept along with the current of public opinion. The car also symbolizes Maycomb’s own transition to modernity. The town is getting bigger and more modern, with more paved streets, so the outside world can enter Maycomb more easily. Maycomb is twenty miles from the train station and twenty miles from the river, so even though it’s the country seat, the town has historically enjoyed isolation. However, with more and more cars, more people of all races and beliefs are entering town and threatening to disrupt the town’s accustomed rhythms.