Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Society and Class

By Harper Lee

Society and Class

Chapter 2
Aunt Alexandra

Alexandra's voice cut through her ruminations: "Jean Louise, did you come down on the train Like That?" (2.45)

For anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra's character is no surprise. She is the voice of the old Southern matriarchy, making sure her niece always puts on a good face, regardless of how Jean Louise actually feels.

"I do wish you'd try to dress better while you're home. Folks in town get the wrong impression of you. They think you are—ah—slumming." (2.48)

Aunt Alexandra is very concerned with what other people think of Jean Louise, as a reflection on her. In a small Southern town, women with nothing better to do care very much about the society's opinion of them.

Chapter 3

Alexandra was the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was a disapprover; she was an incurable gossip. (3.6)

These sound like negative traits, and from Jean Louise's POV, they are. But for the society ladies of Maycomb, Aunt Alexandra is a paramount example of class.

To Alexandra, there was a distinct and distasteful difference between one who paints and a painter, one who writes and a writer. (3.16)

Instead of viewing these people as creative types, Aunt Alexandra probably views painters and writers as useless freeloaders. They should be contributing to society by… by… by serving Coffee.

Aunt Alexandra

"But you're just saying that a Clinton's not good enough for a Finch." (3.62)

Ugh, Aunt Alexandra. She believes in high breeding and not associating with anyone she deems a "lesser" kind, for fear they may contaminate the bloodstream.

Chapter 15

A diploma meant more to Henry than to most of his friends. It was all right for some of them to be expelled; in a pinch, they could go off to a boarding school. (15.153)

Because Henry is lower class, education is important. He has to earn his place in society. But the principal of the school would expel him in an instant. As a member of the lower class, Henry is viewed much like someone would view an insect. Easy to squash out… for whatever reason.

Chapter 16
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch

"Jean Louise, I've had to scratch since I was a kid for the things you and Jem took for granted. I've never had some of the things you take for granted and I never will. All I have to fall back on is myself." (16.58)

This line is the culmination of the Jean Louise vs. Society and Class conflict. She has to face her entitlement. But we're not sure if she accepts it or not, considering how angry at Henry she is for other reasons.

"We Finches do not marry the children of rednecked white trash, which is exactly what Henry's parents were when they were born and were all their lives." (3.72)

It seems that class and manners aren't inexplicably tied together. Alexandra might be high class, but she has terrible manners when it comes to rudely commenting on Henry's background. We guess only people she deems high class deserve good treatment.

"Don't you study about other folks's business till you take care of your own." (11.123)

This is good advice from Calpurnia to Jean Louise. If only the so-called high-class white people would take it.

"Up popped the ugliest, most shameful aspect of [Reconstruction]—the breed of white man who lived in open economic competition with feed N****es. For years and years all that man thought he had that made him any better than his black brothers was the color of his skin. He was just as dirty, he smelled just as bad, he was just as poor." (14.122-14.123)

To Uncle Jack, Reconstruction blurred the class lines for many people. And to him, that is a bad thing. To him, white people should automatically be of a higher class than black people, simply because of the color of their skin.