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.