Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Chapter 17

By Harper Lee

Chapter 17

  • In this corner: Atticus Finch. Beloved father turned newfound racist.
  • In this corner: Jean Louise Finch. Endearing child with cute nickname turned entitled young adult.
  • Two (wo)men enter. One (wo)man leaves.
  • Let the fight begin.
  • Jean-Louise throws the first punch, telling Atticus his behavior is "disgusting" (17.21).
  • Atticus swings the discussion away from his racism—not that he denies it, either—and brings up the Supreme Court's decision (that we can assume is Brown vs. Board of Education).
  • Jean Louise agrees with him that it was a terrible decision, because it went against the Tenth Amendment, which grants States' Rights.
  • He thinks the Court is stamping out the Constitution.
  • Jean Louise still thinks N****es deserve a chance, but Atticus says the N**** population is a "set of backward people" (17.64).
  • He fears a world where N****es have citizenship and—even worse—take county office.
  • He thinks that full citizenship is a privilege to be "earned by each man" (17.88). We guess by "earned," he means, "granted by by being born white and male."
  • Both Atticus and Jean Louise agree that the NAACP is terrible, but they disagree on the reason it came about.
  • Jean Louise says the South deserves it because it tried to wash its hands of the matter.
  • Their discussion continues to spiral down the tubes with more references to the tenth amendment and the NAACP.
  • Finally, Jean Louise tells Atticus what her real problem is: that he betrayed her.
  • She thought he was good, but he's not. She looked up to him, and he let her down.
  • She even compares him to Hitler.
  • Eek.
  • He lets that roll off his back and says he loves her.
  • But, uh, she doesn't want to hear it. "You double-dealing, ring-tailed old son of a b****!" (17.153) she yells. Hey, why is she bringing her grandmother into this?
  • "That'll do, Pig"—oh wait, wrong story.
  • "That'll do, Jean Louise" (17.154), he says, and she can't believe how unaffected by this whole argument he is.
  • She thinks to herself, "God in heaven, take me away…" (17.155) (Or hey—maybe a train?)