Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Principles

By Harper Lee


Chapter 1
Atticus Finch

"The only remedy for this is not to let it beat you." (1.33)

Atticus is talking about arthritis here, but this philosophy could be applied to any fight he gets into. He won't let anyone beat him, at all, ever. He is completely rigid, even in old age.

Chapter 3

Alexandra was not amused. She was extremely annoyed. She could not comprehend the attitudes of young people these days. (3.71)

This odd jump into Alexandra's head shows us her inner thoughts toward Jean Louise—and all youth. They seem to be in line with older people in the South, not understanding a younger generation, and unwilling to even try to understand their principles.

Chapter 9

She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. (9.14)

The foundation of Jean Louise's principles is her father. So when that foundation begins to crack, everything starts crumbling down.

Chapter 12

Not long ago, Atticus would have done it simply from his goodness, he would have done it for Cal. (12.88)

Is Jean Louise correct here? She thinks she understands what drives her father's moral compass, but she may have been wrong all along.

Chapter 13

I was taught never to take advantage of anyone who was less fortunate than myself, whether he be less fortunate in brains, wealth, or social position; it meant anybody, not just N****es. (13.111)

Was Jean Louise taught these principles, or did she learn them? Unfortunately, this book doesn't tell us. But if we use To Kill a Mockingbird as a companion, what does that text show us? What lessons does Atticus actively give his daughter? And which does she learn from observation?

Chapter 14
Dr. "Uncle Jack" Finch

"That's because you haven't looked," he said. "You've never opened your eyes." (14.75)

Uncle Jack suggests that Jean Louise is blinded by her own principles. Is he correct? Perhaps she is naïve in believing that others share her principles.

Chapter 17
Atticus Finch

"Jefferson believed full citizenship was a privilege to be earned by each man." (17.89)

Here we start to learn that Atticus is a man who puts political principles ahead of human ones. Considering how coldly he comments on a family member's death early in the book, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

Jean Louise "Scout" Finch

"I despise you and everything you stand for." (17.149)

You can open Chapter 17 to any page and pick out a quote in Jean Louise and Atticus's battle of the principles. Here, she shuts down her father because of his beliefs. Is that fair?

Chapter 18
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch

"When you happened along and saw [Atticus] doing something that seemed to you to be the very antithesis of his conscience—your conscience—you literally could not stand it. It made you physically ill. Life became hell on earth for you. You had to kill yourself, or he had to kill you to get you functioning as a separate entity." (18.93)

This is the ultimate revelation for Jean Louise in the book. She learns that in order to stand alone, she has to believe in her own principles on her own… not because someone else does. If they are strong enough, she can be an independent person.

Atticus drew the line at having someone feed him, and Dr. Finch solved the problem by jamming the handles of a fork, knife, and spoon into the ends of big wooden spools. (12.26)

Seeing Atticus struggle with eating makes us wonder: Is he a principled man or is he a prideful man? What is the difference between the two?

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