Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Duty

By Harper Lee


Chapter 1

Jean Louise's aunt often held up Cousin Joshua to her as a family example not lightly to be discountenanced: he was a splendid figure of a man, he was a poet, he was cut off in his prime, and Jean Louise would do well to remember that he was a credit to the family. (1.8)

It is a Southerner's duty, it seems, to remain true to her family, no matter how hateful or crazy they may be. This is a theme that will become very important as the book continues. This quote is but a taste of it.

The poetry was so ahead of its time no one had deciphered it yet, but Jean Louise's aunt keeps it displayed casually and prominently on a table in the living-room. (1.10)

This is a different facet of the previous quote. It shows a positive side to the Southerner's duty to her family. Even though Aunt Alexandra probably has no intrinsic respect for her cousin's poetry, she displays and is proud of it (or pretends to be proud of it) because it is part of the family.

Chapter 3

That girl should have had a mother. Atticus had let her run wild since she was two years old, and look what he had reaped. (3.71)

Alexandra believes that it should have been Atticus's duty to remarry. By neglecting that, he damaged Jean Louise forever, in her opinion.

Alexandra saw what Maycomb saw: Maycomb expected every daughter to do her duty. The duty of his only daughter to her widowed father after the death of his only son was clear: Jean Louise would return and make her home with Atticus; that was what a daughter did, and she who did not was no daughter. (3.14)

We continue seeing this theme of duty vs. individuality being cemented through chapter three. Keep reading as this internal conflict starts to tear Jean Louise apart.

Chapter 12
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch

"Cal, Cal, Cal, what are you doing to me? What's the matter? I'm your baby, have you forgotten me? Why are you shutting me out? What are you doing to me?" (12.189)

Okay, let's get this straight. Jean Louise, a young white woman, is putting herself first, before Calpurnia's biological son, a young black man, by asking her what she's doing to her?We understand that Jean Louise is upset at "losing" her mother figure, but is this the time to be having her existential crisis? When Calpurnia's son is facing severe legal consequences? What do you think?

Chapter 15

Well, that's the way of all Finches. Difference between Uncle Jack and the rest of 'em, though, is he knows he's crazy. (15.1)

Jean Louise is able to write off the "craziness" of her family out of this deep-seated duty to them. Also, Jean Louise doesn't yet know she's crazy. She fits right in with the rest of them.

[Jean Louise] would never be able to thank Alexandra enough for coming to stay with Atticus. (3.39)

Would Alexandra stay with Atticus if she didn't have the societal pressure to do this "duty" for her brother?

She threw two dishtowels over the milk, got a fresh one from a drawer of the cabinet, and blotted the milk from her father's trousers and shirt front. (12.34)

This small scene is important because it takes place after Jean Louise finds out about Atticus's racist attitudes, but before she confronts him about it. Even though she is conflicted, she still takes care of him in the best way she can.

What has happened in my family is not what you think. […] I learned nothing from you except how to be suspicious. I didn't know what hate was until I lived among you and saw you hating every day. (13.108)

Duty runs both ways. Jean Louise sees a parent's duty as being able to raise their children right. And she now believes that Atticus failed to do so.

"It takes a certain kind of maturity to live in the South these days. You don't have it yet, but you have a shadow of the beginnings of it." (18.171)

Uncle Jack tries to convince Jean Louise it is her duty to return to Maycomb. But why, exactly? What will she do there? Will Maycomb benefit from her presence? Will she benefit from being home?