Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Principles

By Harper Lee


Are principles universal? Can a person change them over time? Or can principles that seem moral and just in one time seem archaic and old-fashioned in another? These are all questions we're forced to think about in Go Set a Watchman, a book where the "watchman" in the title is one's conscience. The various mental watchmen in this book are on high alert as differences in principles multiply faster than the Alabama kudzu.

Questions About Principles

  1. Where does Jean Louise stand on Civil Rights? Where does her father stand?
  2. Would Jean Louise's moral values seem backwards today? Are her beliefs similar to those of anyone you know?
  3. Have Atticus's principles actually changed since the time of To Kill a Mockingbird? How would Jean Louise have described her father's principles twenty years ago?
  4. Henry says he attends racist meetings in order to fit in. Do you believe him? Does that make him a dishonorable or immoral person?
  5. Jean Louise is a person who cannot put her principles aside to do something she doesn't believe in. Atticus and Henry are able to, in their own ways. Is the book suggesting gender differences when it comes to morals and actions?

Chew on This

Because Jean Louise saw her do moral things, she thought he was a morally righteous person, but she learns that external actions don't necessarily reflect someone's internal principles.

Different principles are regarded differently throughout time and in different communities. Some may see Atticus as noble then and not now. The same can be said for Jean Louise.