Study Guide

Go Set a Watchman Society and Class

By Harper Lee

Society and Class

Hoo boy. Go Set A Watchman shows us that issues of society and class in Maycomb are intense. Not since medieval England's feudal system has a society been so rigid when it comes to its social and economic class structure. No one ever seems happy about it (and they act like they can't do a thing to change it), but everyone keeps talking about it.

And when it does start to change, well, they're not happy about that either. Maybe it's the heat. Or too much sugar in the sweet tea.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Henry believes Jean Louise "take[s] for granted" (16.58) her social status because of how she was raised. What does he mean by this? Do you agree with Henry?
  2. Why does Aunt Alexandra want Jean Louise to behave differently?
  3. Why doesn't Aunt Alexandra want Jean Louise to marry Henry? Is Henry "trash"? If he is, so what? What does that matter?
  4. Go Set a Watchman is a vision of the South in the 1950s. What about the society depicted in this book shocked or surprised you?

Chew on This

Aunt Alexandra is part of Maycomb's rigid social structure. She doesn't approve of anyone outside her class, because that means they are below her. And she doesn't really approve of Jean Louise associating with people below her station, either. Aunt Alexandra can only maintain her elite status by excluding people in this way.

The society depicted in Go Set a Watchman is very similar to that in To Kill a Mockingbird, which takes place thirty years earlier. We hear of a so-called decline in white society due to integration, but we don't actually see it.

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