Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Go Set a Watchman

Plot Summary Part 1

Jean Louise (a grown up version of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird) comes back to Maycomb, Alabama after a long stay in New York City to visit her father Atticus.  There are pages and pages of descriptions of trees, buildings, and roads which I will spare you.

She meets Henry, who she has been dating her on her visits home. Jean Louise tells Henry that she will have sex with him, but will not marry him. In other words (a) she doesn't love him and (b) she's kind of slutty.

Jean Louise meets her Aunt Alexandra. Jean Louise is fascinated by her tits and ass:

Her corsets drew up her bosom to giddy heights, pinched in her waist, flared out her rear, and managed to suggest that Alexandra's had once been an hourglass figure.

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Alexandra's dress is supposed to symbolize her old fashioned nature. Alexandra stays with Atticus to take care of him because he has arthritis. Alexandra does not think Henry is good enough to marry Jean Louise. She think he's white trash because he licks his fingers when he eats cake and coughs without covering his mouth.

Jean Louise asks Henry to take a late night swim with her in the river. They do so. I think Jean Louise is testing Henry to see if he will make a move on her. Any man with a pulse and half a brain knows that when a girl asks you to take a late night swim with her, she wants some action. But Henry is a perfect gentleman. It is at that moment that the reader knows that he will never get any action from Jean Louise.

News of Jean Louise and Henry's late night swim gets around town quickly. It is scandalous. Again we see the clash of the old culture, where people did not swim late at night, and the new culture of Jean Louise, where anything goes. The townsfolk might have been relieved had they known that Henry didn't even have the guts to try and give her more than a peck on the cheek, that it was a perfectly platonic date.

There's a lot of flashbacks to the times Jean Louise played with other children. We also get a long chapter showing her praying in church. Neither of the pages and pages of descriptions of these events have any bearing on the main story.

Jean Louise follows Atticus to town and listens in on a Citizen's Council. The Council is full of white people who say mean things about blacks. They say blacks are

  1. a) hammer headed

  2. b) essentially inferior

  3. c) kinky woolly heads

  4. d) still in the trees

  5. d) greasy and smelly

  6. e) want to marry white girls

  7. f) look like apes

  8. g) have mouths like "Number 2 cans" and

  9. h) should return to Africa.

Jean Louise is shocked to see her father there. She thought her father loved black people because of the time he defended one on rape charges .

Jean Louise runs away. She cries. She eats ice cream. She vomits ice cream.

She decides to think about the time she first started bleeding from her v_gina. This was an unexpected development for Jean Louise. Her mother, being dead, had not warned her about it, so it was left to Calpurnia to hose her down and put a cork in it and explain to Jean Louise of the great joys of bleeding down there every month for the next 30 years. Why is Jean Louise thinking about this at the moment she is upset with Atticus's racism? Impossible to know. But what we can infer from this flashback is that Jean Louise bonded with Calpurnia during her v_gina bleeding incident and cares deeply about Calpurnia because of it.

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