Summary: Chapter 15

Jean Louise returns to the ice-cream parlor that is her childhood home. She has a flashback to when Jem and Henry were successful, glamorous high school seniors and she was an overweight, awkward, fourteen-year-old bookworm. Seniors traditionally invited their younger siblings to the Commencement Dance, and Jem convinced Henry to take Jean Louise as his date. Jean Louise picks out a new dress and buys false bosoms.

Jean Louise calls Atticus in a panic to teach her how to dance, and he sends over Uncle Jack, who gives her a crash course. When Henry arrives, he notices her new figure, but doesn’t say anything to her about it. They go to the dance, where the crowd is impressed with Jean Louise and her new dress.

During one dance, Henry suddenly pulls Jean Louise outside and points out that her “bosoms” are totally askew. She bursts into tears. Henry reassures her that it had just happened and that no one else had noticed. Henry flings the garments off into the distance and pulls her back inside, where no one seems to notice the change. Henry drops her off and kisses her goodnight. Jean Louise is smitten.

The next morning, Mr. Tuffett, the high school principal, calls a special assembly. Someone he says, has perpetrated an obscene act of defilement. He leads the whole school outside, where Jean Louise’s false bosoms are fluttering above a sign. Mr. Tuffett demands that the guilty party give him a signed statement that afternoon, or else he will expel the person who did it.

Henry is anxious at first, but he has an idea. Later that morning, Henry tells Jean Louise to write on a piece of paper, “Dear Mr. Tuffett. They look like mine.” He says that she must give it to Mr. Tuffett just before noon. Jean Louise follows his orders, growing more and more nervous by the minute.

When she gives the note to Mr. Tuffett, he immediately throws it in the wastepaper basket. She is the hundred and fifth girl to give him the exact same note. Jean Louise asks Henry how he got the idea, and he says that Atticus put him up to it. Jean Louise returns from her flashback to the present day, in her childhood backyard.

Summary: Chapter 16

Jean Louise goes to Atticus’s office, where Henry greets her. Jean Louise tells Henry that she is not going to marry him. Jean Louise tells him that she was at the meeting yesterday and that seeing him there sickened her. Henry says that she shouldn’t be so rash, and that the group was more of a political organization than anything. Henry continues to explain that even though people like Atticus and himself might be mad on the inside, they can get more done by being diplomatic.

Jean Louise, Henry says, has more privilege than he does by virtue of being a Finch. Since Henry is not from such a highly regarded family, he has to work harder to fit in and get other people to respect him. Jean Louise protests that Henry is a coward and that he is pandering to what other people want him to do. Henry says that he has to be nice to the other people there so that he can lead a pleasant life. She calls him a hypocrite, and he says that he doesn’t have the luxury not to be a hypocrite. In the middle of their fight, Atticus arrives.

Summary: Chapter 17

Jean Louise and Atticus go into his office. Atticus tells Jean Louise not to be so hard on Henry. Atticus says that Uncle Jack had told him that Jean Louise was upset. She says that his involvement with the Citizens’ Council disgusts her. Atticus asks her what her initial reaction had been to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and she says that she had been furious. She doesn’t like the idea that the Court could ignore the Tenth Amendment, and that even though the Court was trying to do the right thing, it had done so in the wrong way. On the other hand, Jean Louise does believe that black people should have rights.

Atticus argues that it would be dangerous to give the local populations of black people the same rights that white people have, because they are not all fully responsible citizens. He says that Jefferson only wanted people to have the vote who had earned the privilege of full citizenship. He wants the NAACP to leave local affairs alone.

Jean Louise protest that Atticus had always taught her to treat everyone with equal justice, and that he had never claimed that one race was better than another. Jean Louise blames Atticus for teaching her to grow up with a sense of equity for all, rather than teaching her to be a dim-witted Southern belle. She asks, sarcastically, why he never taught her that Jesus only loved some races. Jean Louise says that she had looked up to Atticus, but that she never could again.

Atticus tells Jean Louise that they had only invited the racist man to speak as a form of defense. Jean Louise argues that Atticus is the biggest hypocrite of them all, because even though he treats black people politely, he denies that they’re human. She says that even if black people are childlike, they know that they’re being snubbed. Atticus retains his calm composure, but Jean Louise becomes increasingly hysterical.


While Jean Louise processes the emotional and psychological turmoil that recent events in Maycomb have caused her, she recalls events in her childhood that also stirred emotional and psychological anxiety. The awkwardness of adolescence and the disillusionment involved in transforming from a child into a woman seem particularly applicable to her current experience.

As Jean Louise transitions from being a girl into being a woman, Henry’s role changes in her life. When Jean Louise was a child, Henry was Jem’s friend, but now, as Jean Louise enters adolescence, she begins to have a different set of feelings towards him. The dance represents the first time that Henry and Jean Louise begin to realize that they might have potential to be a couple, not just Jem’s best friend and Jem’s little sister.

Transitioning into womanhood wasn’t easy for Jean Louise. She buys the fake bosoms out of nervousness. Jean Louise wants the bosoms to put into her dress so that she can feel less like a child who is going to the dance as Jem’s little sister, and more like a girl who is attractive and desirable in her own right. Jean Louise panics not only about her appearance but about what she will do at the dance itself. Here, Uncle Jack plays the role of secondary father, as he does throughout her life. Where Atticus provides a moral example and model for Jean Louise to depend upon, and Calpurnia provides the pragmatic, day-to-day care, Uncle Jack helps solve aesthetic crises.

As a child, Jean Louise was always a tomboy, not thinking twice about being different than the boys. Now, as she’s growing up, Jean Louise is becoming self-conscious about her body. Whether or not the fake breasts make Jean Louise look noticeably different, or if they primarily lift her confidence level, she is able to enjoy herself and attract positive attention at the dance. When then bosoms fall out, Jean Louise feels ashamed and embarrassed that Henry has seen, but her vulnerability makes Henry want to protect her, not laugh at her.

Although the movie Spartacus wasn’t released until 1960, after Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman, the scene in which every girl at school claims the false bosoms for her own is very reminiscent to the scene in Spartacus in which every slave claims to be Spartacus to protect the actual Spartacus’s identity. This scene is also reminiscent of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, which were very much in the political background as Harper Lee wrote this novel. During the nineteen-fifties, Senator Joseph McCarthy attacked members of the Communist Party, and so supporters and people in solidarity with the accused would declare that they were Communists as well.

All of the students rally together to support what they perceive of as injustice. As Jean Louise has seen in the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council meeting, the community has the capacity to come together in times of mutual hatred and distrust. However, Maycomb residents also have the ability to help each other in times of need. The town sticks together and helps out its own, which can be a bad thing when combined with bigotry, but it can also be a wonderful thing when combined with gallantry.

In the past, Henry and Atticus had always been there for Jean Louise and had protected her from the rest of the world. Jean Louise’s recollection of her adolescence demonstrates how she grew to perceive both of them as benevolent, rock-solid forces in her life.

In the incident of the false bosoms, Henry appears to be the one who saves the day. He has the brainwave about how he and Jean Louise can get out of trouble, and he convinces the rest of the girls in high school to claim the bosoms for their own. Henry orchestrates the whole incident so that the world remains safe for Jean Louise, and she can maintain both her innocence and her dignity. However, as it turns out, Atticus was the one who initially came up with the idea and sparked Henry’s plan. All along, Atticus ultimately is there to protect Jean Louise in every aspect of her life. Jean Louise knows that she can always rely on Atticus, no matter what, and this belief is continually reaffirmed throughout her girlhood and adolescence. Even as Henry begins to enter her life in a different role, Atticus is still her anchor.

The scene in which Atticus plants the seed for Henry to think of the idea that will help Jean Louise is reminiscent of the scene in which Uncle Jack tries to plant the seeds of an idea in Jean Louise’s head. Atticus is successful, since Henry picks up the brainwave. He comes up with and enacts the plot on his own, but Atticus is the one who sparked his imagination. In Jean Louise’s case, she hasn’t yet picked up the conclusion that Uncle Jack tries to get her to reach.

Jean Louise feels as though Henry and Atticus have failed her. She perceives them both as hypocrites. Jean Louise has a hard time seeing Henry after the incident with the meeting. But Atticus’s hypocrisy is even harder for Jean Louise to face than Henry’s. In her view, Atticus’s tacit acceptance of racism undermines every moral action he has taken and every value he has taught her throughout her life. But Atticus never says anything that is explicitly or blatantly racist. He doesn’t object specifically and vocally to the others’ opinions, but he also doesn’t ever claim that he agrees with them. Instead, he takes a very decidedly neutral stance.

Jean Louise’s outrage against Atticus attacks his perceived actions, more than his actual responses. While Jean Louise is enraged by Atticus’s presence at the meeting and his ability to condone the townsfolk’s behavior, she reacts mostly to what she thinks he believes and how she perceives him to be acting. Thus, Jean Louise is acting out more against her own emotions of betrayal and anger, rather than against any concrete action that Atticus has done or continues to do.