Go Set a Watchman Parts III and IV
I just finished the next few chapters of the novel GSAW and man was it heavy… Not much plot development occurs, but it is definitely the section with the most character development so far.
As I explained in my earlier post, I was very shocked to find out about the racism present in Maycomb. Unfortunately, it gets worse. After cleaning up the living room, Jean finds Atticus’ copy of the The Black Plague: a book describing the inferiority of blacks to white and the importance of controlling them “for their own good”. And let me tell you, Jean is as astonished as I am. She makes a connection of the pamphlet to Atticus and Hank’s strange Sunday meetings and makes a point of finding out what is going on. Her thoughts after finding this pamphlet lead believe me to think that Atticus and Hank are connected to the Klu Klux Klan. It was mentioned once before but in this chapter, Jean refers to them as the
“Invisible Empire, who hated Catholics; ignorant, fear-ridden, red-faced, boorish, law-abiding […] trash.” (Lee, 104)
Now in the early chapters, I had come to the conclusion that Jean herself had grown out of her innocent phase and had abided to the racist, bigoted surrounding her. However, it was her father, the man who was seen as a hero in TKAM for making deep efforts to save an innocent black man against a rape case, who stood as a member of a racist committee. At this point, Jean and I both couldn’t believe what was happening. And luckily for the both of us, Jean decided to go check herself. When she arrives, she describes the scene like so:
“Below her, on rough benches, sat not only most of the trash in Maycomb County, but the country’s most respectable men. She looked toward the far end of the room [..] at a long table, sat her father, Henry Clinton.” (105)
And with that sentence, my thoughts were confirmed. Atticus hadn’t just gotten a pamphlet in the mail and forgot to throw it out, he had really believed in it. This news hits Jean so hard that she eventually throws up (chill). The next morning, she tries to pause her anger to help her father when he explains that he will be taking a black man’s murder case. Faith in humanity restored? Think again. Atticus does not do so out of the goodness of his own heart, but mainly to stop colored lawyers from infiltrating Maycomb. He doesn’t even try to win the case and explains that he will help the black guy plead guilty.
These chapters have been very eye-opening for Jean and I. Dark secrets are revealed about her father and her soon-to-be husband (probably not anymore?). Fortunately, Jean has left some hope in me. She describes herself as being “color-blind” (122) meaning that she, unlike the others, didn’t believe in racism. Hooray! Sorry for doubting you Scout! I hope her stubbornness and willingness lead me to keep some kind of hope that she may be able to change her father and Hank’s opinions.
Some things never change…or do they?
This reading has also opened more events to discuss norms and expectations. To begin with, as Jean is exposed to new truths on her father, she reminiscences over the good actions of his past
“he won an acquittal for a colored boy on a rape charge. The chief witness for the prosecution was a white girl.” (109)
Nice try Jean, but your father never actually won the case. He lost and Tom’s death soon followed, don’t you remember running out of the courthouse that and crying over the verdict? It seems as although everyone around her changed, Jean refuses to do so. She is still the innocent Scout she was in the first novel and refuses to accept that any harm could be done in her universe. Sorry, pal, but life doesn’t work like that.
Furthermore, Jean later discusses of the expectations that were set for her even though the news she was bearing made her despise her father, to an extent. Jean would “sit out her two weeks home in polite detachment, saying nothing, asking nothing, blaming not. She would do as well as could be expected under the circumstances” (142). Knowing Jean’s character, it is obvious that the first thing she wants to do is call out Atticus and ask what the hell is wrong with him. Buuuuuuuuut it didn’t work like that in her day and age, especially with concerns over subjects as touchy as race. Jean understands what is expected of her in this situation, and changes her manners from the stubborn usual self. We know this must really be a big deal when Jean thinks this should be handled a different way. This quote can adobe analyzed under a feminist lens, as it portrays Jean submission to an aspect of domesticity. It is the belief of domesticity that governs the thought that woman must stay at home (in their place) and not be heard. Jean is conforming by accepting that although she is angry, she must stay quiet because that is how she is supposed to act. In this chapter, we also see Jean cleaning the house, attempting to mow the lawn, etc. furthering that she believes she should stay at home.
The final chapter of this section deal with Jean’s expectations of her surroundings. Growing up “color blind”, not ever noticing racism as a pressing issue in her hometown, and moving away to a more open-minded environment in her later years all attributed to Jean’s “advanced” way of thinking. Since she had never paid much attention to news on this topic, she had always been shielded from it’s horror, thus seeing Maycomb in a different light. To her, it was home. It was where the people she loved resided. But by being unable to see the town and it’s people for who they really are, Jean disappoints herself in setting expectations that are much too unrealistic.
“Now she was aware of a sharp apartness, a separation, not from Atticus and Henry merely. All of Maycomb and Maycomb County were leaving her as the hours passed, and she automatically blamed herself.” (154)
She is slowly detaching herself from her roots after realizing that she does not belong there anymore. I really hope that she can help Atticus and Henry in the next few chapters.
Jean? or Jesus?
As you know, the title of the novel is Go Set a Watchman. Therefore, any mentions of the title in the novel must be important, right? Right. The title is mentioned for the first time in a religious environment, and we find out that the title comes from a bible verse:
“For thus hath the Lord said unto me,
Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth” (95)
Some people might not think too much of it, but I believe that the environment in which the title is brought up tells us a lot about what the novel itself is about. In this verse, a watchman is literally just that; a watchman. He is sent to get information about what he sees to tell the Lord. Just like Simon was in Lord of the Flies, Jean must represent some kind of god-like figure. From the beginning, she is set apart from the other characters as the only one with “just” morals reflecting ideas of equality for all (something Jesus obviously wanted for us all). I believe that she was sent to Maycomb to witness the tragedies that racism have helped unfold and her purpose is to bring light to her community to make them understand racial equality.
Like mother like…son
I’m not sure what this will contribute to later on, but it is interesting to note that we finally find out the reason behind Jem’s death. Just like his mother, Jem had a terribly weak heart and passed away due to a heart attack. At the rate that Jean is finding things out, will the she horrified into cardiac arrest?
Anyways, that’s all for me for this week guys. Let me know in the comment section below what you think will happen to Jean! Will she try to change Atticus’ mind about this? Or will she completely just shun her family away?