Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Gender

By Harper Lee

Gender

Chapter 1
Henry "Hank" Clinton

"As a general rule, most women, before they've got 'em, present to their men smiling, agreeing faces. They hide their thoughts. You now, when you're feeling hateful, honey, you are hateful." (1.84)

Henry might pretend as if he doesn't like Jean Louise's antagonistic ways, but we bet he wouldn't be interested in her if she were shy and demure and fake like most of Maycomb's young women.

She still moved like a thirteen-year-old boy and abjured most feminine adornment. (1.54)

Even at twenty-six, Jean Louise is caught between girlhood (and boyhood, in a way) and young womanhood.

Chapter 2

When [Atticus's] daughter was miserable she prowled, and Atticus liked his women to be relaxed, not constantly emptying ashtrays. (2.9)

This is one of two major instances of Atticus showing a bit of misogyny.

Chapter 4
Henry "Hank" Clinton

"I thought women liked to be thought strange and mysterious."

"No, they just like to look strange and mysterious." (4.23-4.24)

This exchange is a little bit flirty talk, but also a little bit true. At least in Jean Louise's case. She relishes keeping Henry on his toes.

Chapter 9

It had never fully occurred to Jean Louise that she was a girl: her life had been one of reckless, pummeling activity; fighting, football, climbing, keeping up with Jem, and besting anyone her own age in any contest requiring physical prowess. (9.9)

We think the main reason Jean Louise was so masculine as a child is because she didn't have a mother. She was raised by a single father and idolized her brother. Her female role model, Calpurnia, was excluded from actually being a role model because of her race.

She must now go into a word of femininity, a world she despised, could not comprehend nor defend herself against, a world that did not want her. (9.10)

Jean Louise's period is a traumatic event for her. We imagine she thought, if she tried hard enough, she could be a man. But her menstruation proves that she is female, and she has to cope with that, which to her (and to millions of pre-pubescent girls) is a tragedy.

Chapter 16
Henry "Hank" Clinton

"Look, honey. Have you ever considered that men, especially men, must conform to certain demands of the community they live in simply so they can be of service to it?" (16.55)

Henry suggests that he already loses his identity, just by being a man in society. He has to compromise his identity to his peers every day to fit in.

Jean Louise "Scout" Finch

"I see a scared little man; I see a little man who's scared not to do what Atticus tells him, who's scared not to stand on his own two feet, who's scared not to sit around with the rest of the red-blooded men—" (16.80)

Considering the efforts Jean Louise goes to in order to protect her own identity as a woman, she is exceptionally insensitive—and dare we say, hypocritical—of Henry's identity as a man. She even taunts him for not being masculine enough, saying, "I expect you to be a man, that's all!" (16.90) Yet if anyone told her to be a woman, she would lash out at them.

"Is that what loving your man is? […] You mean losing your identity, don't you?" (16.17, 16.19)

This idea is discussed a bit in our section on marriage, too. But a marriage—in this region at this time period—involves the man basically taking over. There is never any question that a man will lose his identity. Only the woman has to worry about that.

Atticus said, "Now that I've adjusted my ear to feminine reasoning, I think we find ourselves believing the very same thing." (17.49)

Condescending to black people isn't enough. Atticus has to condescend to the entire female population as well.