Chapter 1 Summary
Jean Louise Finch, twenty-six years old, travels by train from New York City to Maycomb, Alabama, the small town where she grew up with her brother and her father. Her brother, Jem, died two years before the novel begins. Her father, lawyer Atticus Finch, now seventy-two, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Atticus, however, refuses to let the disease defeat him. With the help of Henry “Hank” Clinton, his young protégé and Jean Louise’s lifelong friend, Atticus continues to practice law. Jean Louise goes home once a year, and during one of her two-week visits in Maycomb, Hank had fallen in love with her.
Jean Louise has breakfast in the dining car and watches the landscape roll by. As the train crosses the Chattahoochee River into Alabama, she reflects on the founding of Maycomb, the origins of the Finch family in Maycomb County, and the peculiar history of a “long-departed” Finch cousin, Joshua Singleton St. Clair. An eccentric poet whose verse is indecipherable, Joshua is revered by Jean Louise’s Aunt Alexandra, despite his having attempted to shoot a university president and thereafter being “placed in state accommodations for the irresponsible.”
Hank meets Jean Louise’s train at Maycomb Junction. A World War II veteran and law school graduate, Hank has worked hard to succeed in life after being abandoned by his father and essentially orphaned at age fourteen when his mother died. Thirty years old and established in a law practice with Atticus, he now can support a wife, and he wants Jean Louise to marry him. Greeting her at the train, Hank enfolds her in a bear hug, kisses her twice, collects her suitcase, and escorts her to his car.
On the drive into town, Hank and Jean Louise fall into familiar, affectionate bantering. The conversation then becomes serious when he formally proposes marriage and presses her for a commitment. Jean Louise, however, will not entertain the idea of marrying him; she makes light of it and tries to change the subject. She knows she is not in love with Hank, and rather than consign him—and herself—to a marriage that surely would fail, she chooses instead to “pursue the stony path of spinsterhood.” Hank is vexed by her attitude and behavior. Truly sorry that she has made him unhappy, Jean Louise apologizes for being “hateful.” Hank forgives her, and they resume their teasing—“friends again.”
Chapter 2 Summary
Atticus and his sister, Alexandra, wait at Atticus’s house for Hank and Jean Louise to arrive. His hands crippled with the arthritis that plagues him, Atticus can’t hold the book he is reading—The Strange Case of Alger Hiss. He has placed it on a music stand before him and peruses the text with indignation. Written by a leading member of Britain’s Labour party and published in 1953, the book defends Hiss, an official of the American government accused in 1948 of spying for the Soviet Union. Alexandra, who moved in with Atticus after he became disabled with arthritis, considers the book inconsequential because she has never heard of the author.
After Hank and Jean Louise arrive and she has embraced her father, she inquires about his health. She then asks for news about Maycomb, learning that Edgar Finch’s son has met an untimely death at college. At the mention of Edgar’s name, Jean Louise teases Alexandra about his “courting” Alexandra for eleven years without proposing marriage. Atticus and Jean Louise then discuss the Merriweathers, wed forty-two years, who are divorcing.
Alexandra suddenly interrupts to criticize Jean Louise’s casual attire, beginning another skirmish in their “Hundred Years’ War” over the way she chooses to dress. When Jean Louise argues with Alexandra, Atticus intervenes. “That’ll do, Scout,” he says, unconsciously using his nickname for her when she was a child. Jean Louise apologizes to her aunt, Alexandra goes to make coffee, and the conversation in the living room continues with Hank observing as Jean Louise teases her father about his putting on the golf course. When Atticus says he can still grip a putter, they make a date to test his skills the following afternoon.
Alexandra returns to the living room and serves coffee. After downing a cup, Hank prepares to leave, and Atticus decides to go with him. Before leaving, Atticus suddenly asks Jean Louise, “[H]ow much of what’s going on down here gets into the newspapers?” He then clarifies, “I mean about the Supreme Court’s bid for immortality.” Jean Louise humorously critiques how several New York papers are covering racial strife in the South and mentions in passing the NAACP, bus strikes, and “that Mississippi business.” Her only experience with the NAACP, she explains, is having received some NAACP Christmas seals and putting them on all the cards she mailed to Maycomb. “Did Cousin Edgar get his?” she asks her father mischievously. Atticus smiles as he recounts Edgar’s angry response to her card.
Signaling Hank that it’s time to go, Atticus makes for the door. Before leaving, Hank confirms his date that evening with Jean Louise. To irritate Alexandra, Jean Louise asks Hank if she may wear slacks. When he says no, Alexandra is pleased.
Chapter 3 Summary
A review of Jean Louise’s history with her aunt reveals that her feelings about Alexandra are deeply conflicted. She finds some of Alexandra’s traits delightful, so long as she is separated from her aunt by “half a continent.” Being in Alexandra’s presence calls up their “irreconcilable points of view” and reminds Jean Louise that while she was growing up, Alexandra had made her life miserable. Now that Jean Louise is an adult, she can generally deal with her overbearing aunt, but Alexandra can still wound her deeply and make her question her own character.
Jean Louise recalls the pain inflicted by Alexandra two years earlier when Jem, Jean Louise’s brother, died. Angry that Jean Louise would not move back to Maycomb and live with Atticus, Alexandra had attacked: “Jean Louise, your brother worried about your thoughtlessness until the day he died!” Jean Louise knows Alexandra is lying about Jem, but the accusation of being thoughtless and selfish had sent her back to New York with a “throbbing conscience not even Atticus could ease.” Despite her difficult history with Alexandra, however, Jean Louise respects her for moving in with Atticus, now that he needs assistance, and she feels deep gratitude for all Alexandra does to make his life easier, especially since Calpurnia, his faithful housekeeper for many years, has retired.
After Atticus and Hank leave the house, Jean Louise visits with Alexandra in the kitchen as she washes the dishes. Alexandra announces she is “giving a Coffee” for Jean Louise, a traditional social gathering in Maycomb during which a young woman who has moved away and has come home for a visit is “placed on view at 10:30 A.M.” The young women her age who remained in Maycomb can then “examine” her. Jean Louise has no desire to pass the time with former classmates, but feeling a moment of affection for her aunt, she consents to having the Coffee.
The mood in the kitchen changes when Jean Louise mentions that she might be thinking of marrying Hank. Although she told Hank that she wouldn’t marry him, the idea no longer seems impossible to her. Alexandra’s reaction makes Jean Louise regret mentioning Hank. After first praising him, Alexandra explains in detail why his family background makes him unsuitable for Jean Louise, a Finch. Hank’s parents, Alexandra insists, were “rednecked white trash,” and only Atticus’s guidance has made him respectable. “Fine a boy as he is,” Alexandra declares, “the trash won’t wash out of him.” When Alexandra vents her resentment of Atticus’s affection for Hank and the role Hank is playing in Atticus’s life, Jean Louise’s patience expires. “Aunty,” she replies, “why don’t you go pee in your hat?” That evening when Hank picks Jean Louise up for their date, she recalls Alexandra’s comments in the kitchen and suddenly hugs him, closer to marrying him than ever before.
Chapter 4 Summary
After being established as the county seat when Alabama was still a territory, Maycomb had not grown for one hundred fifty years. Until World War II, Maycomb had remained a quaint little town, peopled by the descendants of the original settlers who had intermarried for generations until “relationships were hopelessly entangled and the members of the community looked monotonously alike.” After the war, the old town had changed substantially in appearance (not for the better), and new families living in newly constructed “matchbox” houses increased the population. Despite their numbers, however, outsiders they would always be.
Jean Louise does not appreciate the changes in Maycomb. Sitting with Hank on chrome chairs in the dining room of the updated Maycomb Hotel, her displeasure is apparent. Feeling that “time has passed her by,” she feels a sudden need to visit Finch’s Landing on the river, the original homestead of Atticus’s family in Maycomb County. Hank is not surprised by her desire to go to the river; he knows that Jean Louise is “most like her old self” at the Landing. He will take her there after dinner.
During dinner Hank and Jean Louise discuss their relationship, with Hank noting that she is like a “Jekyll-and-Hyde character,” moving away from him the moment he’s convinced he possesses her. In response, Jean Louise playfully instructs him about women and what a woman wants in a man. She then describes, cynically, the disastrous marriages she has observed in New York and expresses her fear of “making a mess of being married to the wrong man” and turning into a “screamin’ shrew.” Hank attempts to allay her fears, suggesting that he is not the wrong man for her. As they finish dinner, he asks Jean Louise why she always drinks only half of a second cup of coffee. She is surprised that he has noticed such a small detail about her and wonders why he has waited so long to mention it.
Chapter 5 Summary
After dinner, Jean Louise and Hank set out for Finch’s Landing. Leaving Maycomb, they reminisce about the time Atticus was driving them to Barker’s Eddy to swim, and Jem had bounced out of the open car when it hit a sizable bump in the road. Atticus hadn’t noticed Jem’s sudden exit, and Jean Louise had not allowed Hank to report it. Jem had been furious when he caught up with them at the creek, on foot. Reaching the E-Lite Eat Shop, Hank stops to buy two “set-ups” and retrieves a bottle of Seagram’s Seven from under the seat of his car. He mixes a weak drink for Jean Louise, a stronger one for himself, and drives on.
With Jean Louise dozing beside him, Hank’s mind wanders to memories of their childhood in Maycomb, and he suddenly thinks of Dill—Charles Baker Harris, who holds a special place in Jean Louise’s heart. Rousing her, he asks where Dill is now. “Italy, last time I heard,” she replies. Thinking of Dill reminds Jean Louise of endless summers when she, Jem, and Dill acted out stories they dreamed up to alleviate their boredom, an activity that sometimes got them into trouble. She vividly recalls getting caught playing “revival,” as Jem, the minister, baptized her in the neighbor’s goldfish pond, and Dill, draped in a bed sheet, stood by as the Holy Ghost. She had been naked, having taken off her overalls so that they wouldn’t get wet. Reverend Moorehead and his wife, who had come for dinner and witnessed the scene, had been scandalized; Calpurnia had been furious; and Atticus had excused himself from their company because he couldn’t stop laughing.
Hank and Jean Louise arrive at Finch’s Landing. The Old Finch House, a white two-story with wrap-around porches, sits in a clearing atop a bluff. Three hundred sixty-six steps lead down the face of the bluff to the jetty on the river. The air, much cooler, carries the scent of the river. Surveying the place, Jean Louise remembers its long history and the family reunions she attended there as a child. When Hank tells her that the Finch family no longer owns any part of it, Jean Louise is vaguely disturbed that she had not been informed of the sale.
Racing down the steps to the river, Hank beats her to the jetty. They lie side by side on the wooden floor, look up at the sky, and discuss once again getting married. Hank tells her he is considering running for a seat in the state legislature, and they weigh his odds of winning. After kissing Hank for a while, Jean Louise insists it’s time to leave. Hank teases her about having a boyfriend in New York. When she threatens to push him off the jetty into the river, he empties his pockets and prepares for battle. Hank tosses her into the water, and she pulls him in with her.
Driving back to Maycomb, their clothes still wet, Jean Louise lays her head on his shoulder and thinks that marrying him “might work after all,” even though she is in no way domestic. Her reverie is interrupted when a car races past them from behind and barely navigates a curve in the road ahead. “A carload of Negroes,” Hank explains. “That’s the way they assert themselves these days …. They’re a public menace.” Returning Jean Louise to Atticus's house, Hank kisses her goodnight, and they make a date for the following evening.
Chapter 6 Summary
Jean Louise is rudely awakened early Sunday morning by a horrified Alexandra Finch. According to Mary Webster, who had called Alexandra “at the crack of dawn,” Jean Louise and Hank Clinton had been observed swimming naked at Finch’s Landing. Alexandra demands an explanation and advises Jean Louise to tell Atticus what she has done before he “finds out on the street corner.” When Atticus comes into Jean Louise’s bedroom, the truth is sorted out, but Alexandra is still upset; Jean Louise’s swimming with Hank late at night at Finch’s Landing, clothed or unclothed, is highly improper. Jean Louise apologizes and gets dressed to go to Sunday services at the Methodist church. Aunt Alexandra disapproves of her niece’s not wearing a hat.
Dr. John Hale Finch, Atticus’s younger brother and Jean Louise’s “Uncle Jack,” greets her outside the church. A bachelor who resides with his nineteen-year-old cat, Jack has a “hat-pin sharp” wit, a “bear-trap memory,” and a “vast restless mind.” As a struggling young lawyer, Atticus had paid Jack’s way through medical school by scrimping and borrowing to cover the tuition; after graduating, Jack had practiced in Nashville, paid Atticus back with interest, invested wisely in the stock market, and retired at forty-five to devote his life to the study of Victorian literature. After years of living with nineteenth-century authors, Jack’s speech is punctuated with archaic expressions and “subtle allusions to Victorian obscurities.” Most of the residents of Maycomb County find him “incomprehensible.” Strangers think he is a “borderline case.” Jean Louise adores him.
Standing with Jean Louise on the church steps and kissing her cheek, Uncle Jack lets it be known at once that he has heard the rumor about her and Hank’s swimming at Finch’s Landing. He mischievously mentions her “predilection for ablutionary excesses” and says the incident is a “classic example of Watsonian Behaviorism.” Jean Louise quickly shushes him. Calling Jack an “old quack,” she says she plans to visit him that afternoon. Jean Louise walks into the church “with as much dignity as she could muster” and proceeds to Sunday School class. Eyes open, she sleeps through the lesson, as always.
Chapter 7 Summary
Following Sunday School, Jean Louise attends the morning church service. She sits with Alexandra in the sanctuary; Atticus and Dr. Finch, for reasons unknown to Jean Louise, sit together in a different pew as they have done since Jack moved back to Maycomb. Hank, one of the ushers this morning, winks at Jean Louise as he passes a collection plate; seeing him do it, Alexandra looks “blue murder.” As the ushers return the collection plates to the altar, confusion suddenly ensues. Mrs. Haskins, the organist, plays the Doxology (“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”) in a new way, changing the rhythm of the hymn, while the congregation continues to sing it as they always have, a rendition traditional in Southern Methodism.
How Mrs. Haskins has played the Doxology is not well received by Maycomb’s Methodists. Thinking about Mrs. Haskins’ musical heresy, Jean Louise first blames Herbert Jemson, the church’s music director, and then she blames Mr. Stone, the minister. Mr. Stone, Jean Louise knows, has “long been suspected of liberal tendencies” and of being “too friendly . . . with his Yankee brethren.” Stewing about the Doxology, Jean Louise cannot concentrate on Stone’s sermon, the text taken from Isaiah 21:6—“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.”
After the service, Jack Finch confronts Herbert Jemson about the Doxology. Jemson refuses to take responsibility for the new rendition, blaming the music instructor at Camp Charles Wesley where Jemson had recently taken a course. The instructor, Jemson says, had told him Southern Methodists “ought to pep up the Doxology.” Hailing from New Jersey, the instructor also felt contempt for old Southern hymns in general, believing that most of them should be replaced by new ones. Dr. Finch is incensed: “Apparently … our brethren in the Northland are not content merely with the Supreme Court’s activities. They are now trying to change our hymns on us.” Jemson assures Dr. Finch that he plans to keep the old hymns and to play their version of the Doxology. Jemson likes the old hymns, and he knows the congregation wouldn’t learn the new Doxology anyway.
Chapter 8 Summary
After Sunday dinner, Jean Louise looks forward to visiting Uncle Jack that afternoon. Hank arrives, asks Atticus if he is ready to go, and makes a date with her to go to the movies that evening. Asking Hank where he and Atticus are going, Jean Louise is surprised when he says they are going to a meeting at the courthouse. She assumes the meeting concerns local politics.
After Atticus and Hank leave, Jean Louise straightens up the living room and finds a pamphlet entitled “The Black Plague.” Under the heading is “a drawing of an anthropophagous Negro.” Reading the virulent racist tract, she is shocked and appalled. She takes it into the kitchen, drops it into the garbage can, and questions Alexandra. The pamphlet belongs to Atticus, Alexandra says, chiding Jean Louise for throwing it away. Alexandra has read it, and she thinks it contains “a lot of truths.” Jean Louise thinks the pamphlet’s content “makes Dr. Goebbels look like a naïve little country boy,” and she can’t believe her aunt endorses it.
Pursuing the subject with Alexandra, Jean Louise learns that Maycomb County now has a citizens’ council; Atticus is on the board of directors, and Hank is “one of the staunchest members.” Hank and Atticus have gone to the courthouse to attend a council meeting. Jean Louise is alarmed. From reading the New York papers, she is familiar with the white citizens’ councils that have formed in the South. She leaves the house and walks quickly to town. On the way to the courthouse, Jean Louise reviews what Alexandra has told her and can’t believe it. Atticus and Hank must be “pulling something,” she thinks, attending council meetings only “to keep an eye on things.” She is sure her aunt is wrong about Atticus’s being on the board of directors.
At the courtroom, Jean Louise makes her way to the “colored” balcony and sits where she and Jem used to sit when they watched Atticus in court. The Maycomb County Citizens’ Council meeting is in progress, attended by “most of the trash in Maycomb County,” as well as its “most respectable men.” Atticus and Hank sit at a table with some men Jean Louise recognizes; also at the table is a stranger to Maycomb, Grady O’Hanlon. After being introduced briefly by Atticus, O’Hanlon rises and delivers a speech so vicious in its racism that Jean Louise becomes physically ill. As O’Hanlon continues to rant, his invective unabated, she remembers as a child watching Atticus in the same courtroom defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white girl and, against all odds, winning the case. By sitting at the table with O’Hanlon, Atticus is now condoning racist “filth.” Weak and sick at heart, she leaves.
Walking home in a daze, Jean Louise feels estranged from all she had known. She hears familiar voices from her childhood and recalls Mrs. Wheeler, Mrs. Dubose, and Maudie Atkinson—Miss Maudie who had baked little cakes for her. Passing Miss Rachel’s house, she suddenly realizes that she has returned not to Atticus’s new home where she now visits him, but to the place where she and Jem had grown up. An ice cream parlor occupies the lot where their house had once stood. After buying a cup of ice cream, Jean Louise sits at a table in the yard where she and Jem used to play. Nauseated and unable to think, she knows her faith in her father has been destroyed. Atticus has betrayed her.
Chapter 9 Summary
A man of “integrity, humor, and patience,” Atticus Finch is revered by everyone who knows him. While practicing law in Maycomb, Atticus had been widowed at forty-eight when Jean Louise and Jem’s mother had died suddenly of a heart attack on the front porch of the family’s home. Jean Louise had been two years old when her mother died, Jem four years older. The same heart condition that had killed their mother at thirty-three had taken Jem’s life just as suddenly twenty-two years later.
With the help of Calpurnia, the Finch family’s cook, Atticus had reared Jem and Scout “as best he could,” the result being that his children admired him, trusted him, and loved him very much. While they were growing up, he had always found the time and the energy for playing games, making up stories, and reading to them at bedtime “until his voice cracked.” His reading to them “whatever he happened to be reading,” including The Code of Alabama, had enhanced their education. He had taken them with him almost everywhere—to Montgomery for summer sessions of the legislature and to football games, political meetings, and church; when he had needed to work at night, he had taken them to the office. In rearing Jean Louise, Atticus had stumbled only once. She had been unprepared and very frightened at age eleven by the unexpected arrival of puberty.
Realizing she was indeed a girl had been a difficult experience for Jean Louise; a tomboy who loved “reckless, pummeling activity,” like fighting and football, she had regarded her femininity as a “cruel practical joke.” When Jem had become occupied with “slicking back his hair with water and dating girls,” Atticus and Jack Finch had eased her loneliness and helped her navigate the transition from tomboy to young woman. Atticus had sent her to college in Georgia, and in his wisdom, had encouraged her thereafter to make an independent life for herself away from Maycomb. Years later, Jean Louise realized that Atticus had wanted the security of knowing she could “fend for herself” when he was gone.
Atticus and his abiding love had anchored Jean Louise’s life and shaped the moral content of her character. She often had felt sorry for those who had grown up without an Atticus. Without realizing it, Jean Louise had worshiped him and had been “complacent in her snug world.”
Chapter 10 Summary
In a corner of the backyard at the ice cream parlor, Jean Louise throws up the Sunday dinner she had eaten with Atticus and Alexandra before her world had fallen apart. A second, more severe wave of nausea overwhelms her when she remembers what she had witnessed at the courthouse, but she has nothing left in her stomach. Standing by the wire fence between Miss Rachel’s yard and what had once been the Finches’ backyard makes Jean Louise think of Dill. She imagines how he would have comforted her, but Dill “had long since gone from her.” She longs to believe she is making a mistake in thinking Atticus condones racism, but she knows she is not mistaken. Silently addressing Atticus, she says, “You did it as sure as you were sitting there.”
Jean Louise returns to the table where she had been sitting; her ice cream has melted and made a mess. The owner of the ice cream parlor, a man with whom she had spoken earlier but whose name she does not know, appears with a rag and wipes up the ice cream. After establishing that he is one of the Cunninghams, he and Jean Louise chat briefly. She walks home, taking the long way to Atticus’s house and feeling very tired.
Alexandra is waiting for Jean Louise, perturbed that her niece has been gone so long and may have been visiting “out of the family” without being properly dressed. She orders Jean Louise to call Jack, who has been expecting her to visit that afternoon. Jean Louise calls her uncle, apologizes, and makes plans to see him the next day. Noticing that Jean Louise looks “puny” and realizing that she is upset, Alexandra deduces that she had gone to the citizens’ council meeting and seems concerned only that she had attended the meeting looking “Like That.” Jean Louise instructs her aunt to tell Hank when he arrives that Jean Louise is “indisposed.” Escaping to her bedroom, Jean Louise shuts the door, falls into bed, and goes to sleep.
Chapter 11 Summary
When Jean Louise is in the sixth grade, some “elderly” students from Old Sarum attend school in Maycomb after someone burns down their own school; four students nearly nineteen years old and several sixteen-year-old girls join Jean Louise’s class. The boys teach Jean Louise how to shoot craps and chew tobacco. The girls gossip among themselves, excluding Jean Louise, but they are “useful” in playing volleyball.
Jean Louise enjoys the sixth grade until she gets “the Curse,” as the Old Sarum girls refer to menstruation. Explaining that girls wouldn’t have the Curse if Eve hadn’t eaten the apple, Ada Belle Stevens tells Jean Louise, “You’ll get used to it. I’ve had it for years.” Jean Louise, however, is certain that she will never get used to the horrible thing that has overtaken her.
On the days of the month when Jean Louise can’t pursue her usual activities at recess, she spends her time shooting craps with the Old Sarum boys behind the school. At the end of recess one day after gambling with the boys, Albert Coningham thanks her for helping him with his schoolwork and suddenly kisses her, touching her lips with his tongue. Jean Louise has never been kissed this way; she feels “bemused and faintly annoyed” and assumes that in kissing her with his tongue, Albert had “miscalculated.”
As time passes, Jean Louise starts spending recess with the Old Sarum girls. During one of her visits with them, the girls realize that Jean Louise knows nothing about sex, and Ada Belle explains where babies come from—that after a girl starts menstruating, she gets pregnant when a boy kisses her and puts his tongue in her mouth. Remembering the encounter with Albert Coningham, Jean Louise feels sick and horrified, sure that she is going to have a baby. Leaving school without permission, she goes home and sits in the chinaberry tree in the backyard until dinnertime; after dinner, she sits in the tree until sunset, when Atticus finds her and tells her to come down. Jean Louise would like to share her “burden” with Atticus, but she is unable to tell him, or anyone, her terrible secret.
In the months that follow, Jean Louise suffers silently as she anticipates the shame she will bring to her family when her baby is born. Believing that the baby will arrive in October, she decides on the last day of September to kill herself. Now in the seventh grade, she leaves school late in the afternoon and walks to town, arriving at the water-tank, the tallest structure in Maycomb. After climbing the ladder on the side of the tank and reaching the platform near the top, she sits down, surveys Maycomb far below her, and considers how she should jump. Suddenly she is grabbed by Hank Clinton, who has climbed the tower to retrieve her. Pulling Jean Louise off the platform and escorting her down the ladder to the ground, Hank is furious that she has endangered her life, until he suddenly realizes that “she had not been playing.” Treating Jean Louise gently, he walks her home and turns her over to Calpurnia.
Alone with Cal, Jean Louise breaks down and confesses that she is going to have a baby. “When?” Cal asks. “Tomorrow,” says Jean Louise. After assuring Jean Louise that she is not pregnant, Cal accurately explains the facts of life to her, with patience and love. She counsels Jean Louise to ignore what she might hear from the Old Sarum girls and to come to her “if you want to know somethin’ ….” Her life restored, Jean Louise falls asleep in the living room and is awakened later by Jem. “Scout,” Jem tells his little sister, “if there’s ever anything that happens to you or something …. if you get in trouble at school or anything—you just let me know. I’ll take care of you.”
Chapter 12 Summary
Jean Louise wakes up very early Monday morning. She remembers the events at the courthouse the day before but can’t bear to think of them. After working in the yard and being scolded by Alexandra for waking people up with the lawnmower, Jean Louise goes into the house for breakfast. When Atticus comes to the table and speaks to her, she can’t look at him, and he senses that she is not all right for some reason. The sheriff calls, wanting to speak to Atticus. Atticus asks Alexandra to tell the sheriff to call Hank; he trusts that Hank can deal with whatever matter has prompted the sheriff to phone him at 6:00 a.m.
Hank arrives a few minutes later to see Atticus. Speaking to Jean Louise in the living room, he mentions having seen her sitting in the balcony at the citizens’ council meeting. He notices that Jean Louise is short with him, but he doesn’t take offense and goes into the kitchen to talk to Atticus. Jean Louise follows Hank into the kitchen and listens as he tells Atticus about the sheriff’s phone call. Calpurnia’s grandson, one of Zeebo’s boys, has accidentally run over and killed Mr. Healy, an old white man who had been staggering home drunk after “an all-night boozing.” Zeebo’s boy is in jail, and he wants Atticus to defend him. Hank has told the sheriff to tell the boy that Atticus “wouldn’t touch the case.” Jean Louise is thankful when she hears Atticus say, “Of course we’ll take the case.” Her father, she is sure, would never abandon Calpurnia and her family. The events of the previous day suddenly seem far less threatening to her.
Jean Louise’s relief, however, evaporates as Atticus explains to Hank that they must take the case to prevent Calpurnia’s grandson from being represented by a “colored” NAACP lawyer. NAACP lawyers, Atticus tells his daughter, who is mystified by the conversation, are systematically interfering with the workings of Southern courts, using legal tricks to send cases to federal courts where “they know the cards are stacked in their favor.” Jean Louise despairs as she listens to Atticus, remembering a time when he would have taken the case “simply from his goodness … for Cal.” Now his only concern is keeping the NAACP and black lawyers out of Maycomb.
After Hank leaves, Jean Louise runs an errand for Alexandra and then takes Atticus to work, concentrating on her driving so that she won’t have to talk to him. Dropping him off at the office, she drives to Calpurnia’s house outside of town. The dirt road leading to the house is blocked by a long line of cars. Jean Louise parks, walks to the house, and sees that Cal’s friends and family have gathered on her porch. Zeebo greets her and takes her to Cal, who is resting in a back bedroom. Jean Louise is shocked and saddened to see how old and frail Cal has become. She kisses Cal’s hand. “Sit down, baby,” Cal tells her.
After awkwardly assuring Cal that Atticus will “do his best” to help her grandson, Jean Louise notices a change in Cal’s demeanor. She is suddenly “wearing her company manners” and speaking to Jean Louise as if she were a stranger. Jean Louise begs Cal to come back to her. “Why are you shutting me out? What are you doing to me?” she cries. “What are you all doing to us?” Cal replies. Heartbroken, Jean Louise returns to her car. Cal had not seen her; she had seen “white folks.”
Chapter 13 Summary
Returning home after visiting Calpurnia, Jean Louise finds Alexandra in the kitchen making “delicate sandwiches” for the Coffee she is giving for Jean Louise this morning. Alexandra is upset when she learns that Jean Louise has been at Cal’s house because, Alexandra says, “nobody in Maycomb goes to see Negroes any more, not after what they’ve being doing to us.” She explains to Jean Louise that the NAACP has “come down here and filled ‘em with poison” and that having a “strong sheriff” is the only reason Maycomb County has remained peaceful. After hearing Alexandra’s additional review of “uppity Yankee Negroes” and the ingratitude of “shiftless” blacks who don’t appreciate all that the white people of Maycomb have done for them, Jean Louise feels weary. She goes into the living room to escape Alexandra’s rant and to prepare to receive guests.
The Coffee begins promptly at 10:30 when the Maycomb “magpies” arrive, dressed in clothes from Montgomery or Mobile and wearing hats and gloves, plenty of make-up, and a variety of fragrances. Jean Louise categorizes the Maycomb women as the Newlyweds, the Diaper Set, the Light Brigade, and the Perennial Hopefuls, single women who are “patronized by their married contemporaries” and “vaguely felt sorry for.” Jean Louise listens to the conversations of the various groups, joining in when she thinks of something to say; much of what she thinks, she cannot say. The women of the Light Brigade, she notices, seem primarily interested in a local club, in bridge, and in “getting one-up on each other in the matter of electrical appliances.” When Jean Louise can no longer endure the inane chatter she is monitoring, she signals Alexandra, who rescues her momentarily by serving the sandwiches.
As the Coffee wears on, the conversation turns to Calpurnia’s grandson’s running over Mr. Healy. Hester Sinclair is disappointed that the boy most likely will be charged with manslaughter, not murder, because, as she explains, “there hasn’t been a good trial around here in ten years. Good nigger trial, I mean.” Having the floor, Hester then shares her particular understanding of Kaiser Bill, Gandhi, Communists, Roman Catholics, interracial marriage, and the general ignorance of black people. Listening to Hester babble, Jean Louise thinks, “I should like to take your head apart, put a fact in it, and watch it go its way through the runnels of your brain until it comes out of your mouth.” Jean Louise refrains from trying to educate Hester, but she does point out that the Communists probably aren’t all that interested in subverting Maycomb County.
Jean Louise’s mind wanders as the Coffee conversation continues to ebb and flow. She thinks of how New Yorkers view Southerners and how it contrasts with her knowledge of them as she grew up in Maycomb—or with what she had naively believed about them. Sad and disillusioned by Atticus and Alexandra’s racism, Jean Louise thinks bitterly that she had been blind not to have seen it. Recalling Mr. Stone’s sermon the previous morning, she believes she needs a watchman to accompany her, to “declare what he seeth every hour on the hour” and to tell her “this is what a man says but this is what he means.” Cynically, she feels that for twenty-six years, those she has loved have made her the victim of a joke.
Chapter 14 Summary
When the Coffee is over, Jean Louise goes to visit Dr. Finch, who is expecting her. She finds Uncle Jack in the kitchen with Rose Aylmer, his old yellow cat. After he feeds Rose Aylmer, he gives her a dose of vitamin C, makes Jean Louise take one, too, and tells her to see the doctor. He is concerned about his niece, who doesn’t look well.
Jack makes a salad, and he and Jean Louise sit down to lunch. Gently, he prompts her to tell him what’s troubling her. Through tears, she asks Jack what’s wrong with Atticus and says that Alexandra and Hank “have lost their minds.” Jack is amused, observing that after walking “into the middle of a revolution,” Jean Louise wonders what’s wrong. She takes offense, believing that he is making fun of her. Telling Jean Louise to calm down, he explains in his own convoluted way why Southern society has been thrown into such turmoil. “You’re making a bad mistake,” he tells her, “if you think your daddy’s dedicated to keeping the Negroes in their places.” Atticus and men like him, Jack explains, are fighting for a different cause.
With numerous anecdotes and historical references, Jack points out the cultural similarities that existed between England and the South in the 1800s; the South, he contends, had been a separate country within the United States, a country modeled on English society and populated by people of English ancestry who stubbornly resisted change. “Jean Louise,” Jack tells his niece, “there are to this day in Maycomb County the living counterparts of every butt-headed Celt, Angle, and Saxon who ever drew breath.” The Civil War, Jack continues, had not been fought over slavery, since ninety-five percent of Southerners had never seen a slave, “much less owned one.” The war, he tells Jean Louise, had been fought by “an army of individuals” determined to preserve their personal and political identity. One hundred years later, change is being forced once again on the South, Jack says, “and the South’s not ready for it—we’re finding ourselves in the same deep waters.”
When Uncle Jack’s discourse turns to the issues of states’ rights and big government, Jean Louise brings the conversation back to a discussion of Atticus and Alexandra. She wants an explanation for Alexandra’s behavior and for “what the hell has happened to my father.” Accusing Jack of giving her an “elaborate runaround,” she demands a straight answer, but Jack cannot give her one. Speaking vaguely of something that is “incidental” to Jean Louise’s “private war,” Jack makes her promise to come to him “when you can’t stand it any longer, when your heart is in two ….” Jean Louise leaves, and after debating with himself, her worried uncle makes a telephone call.
Chapter 15 Summary
After her frustrating visit with her uncle, Jean Louise goes to the ice cream parlor and once again sits at a table behind Mr. Cunningham’s establishment. She fumes about Jack’s ramblings and wonders what he had been trying to say to her. Looking around the yard where she and Jem had played as children, she thinks of the past and remembers her first dance, the Commencement Dance of Jem’s senior year. She had gone with Hank Clinton.
On the afternoon of the dance, there is much ado in the Finch household. Unhappy with the way her fourteen-year-old figure looks in her new dress, Jean Louise goes to town and buys “a pair of false bosoms,” which Calpurnia sews together. Then Jean Louise remembers that she doesn’t know how to dance, and Uncle Jack is summoned. After Jack gives her some quick lessons in the box step, Jean Louise dresses for the dance, and Hank arrives. Before she leaves with Hank, Calpurnia calls her into the kitchen; Cal wants to sew the new “bosoms” into Jean Louise’s dress, but there isn’t time. Atticus sends Hank and Jean Louise off to the dance, telling his daughter to have “the time of your life.”
Jean Louise does have a wonderful time, until later in the evening when Hank suddenly dances her across the floor and out of the gym. Standing outside the school in the dark, she is horrified when she realizes why—her “bosoms” have shifted and settled in unlikely places on her chest. Jean Louise bursts into tears and wants to go home. Hank reassures her that only he has noticed her dilemma, and she doesn’t need the “falsies” to look nice. With no indecent intent, he reaches into her dress, pulls them out, and throws them into the darkness. He and Jean Louise return to the dance and enjoy the rest of the evening.
At school the following day, a furious Principal Tuffett assembles the students to address the “obscene act of defilement” that has occurred at the school. He knows the identity of the perpetrator, Tuffett tells the students, and if the guilty party wants “leniency,” a signed confession must be given to him by that afternoon. Jean Louise is as puzzled as everyone else by Tuffett’s speech. No one has any idea what “outrage” has sent the principal into a frenzy, until he leads them outside and points to a billboard in front of the high school. Erected to honor the school’s graduates currently fighting in World War II, the billboard is now adorned with Jean Louise’s “falsies,” which are “fluttering softly in the morning breeze ….” To protect Hank from being expelled, and thus not graduating, Jean Louise wants to confess at once, but he has other ideas.
Hank takes Jem’s car keys and disappears. A short time later, he returns to school and dictates a one-sentence letter for Jean Louise to write, sign, and deliver to Principal Tuffett. Trusting Hank, she follows his instructions. When she hands her “confession” to Tuffett, the principal throws it in the trash. Every girl in school, he tells Jean Louise angrily, has turned in the same letter: “They look like mine.” Principal Tuffett, Jem points out later, is “a beaten man.”
Jean Louise wonders how Hank had come up with such an ingenious plan. “I consulted my lawyer,” he replies. After listening to Atticus’s musings about perjury, “safety in numbers,” and the general appearance of “all falsies,” the idea had occurred to Hank after leaving the law office. Jean Louise also wonders what Atticus might say to her regarding the whole affair. Hank assures her that Atticus will say nothing: “Don’t you know everything anybody tells his lawyer’s confidential?”
Chapter 16 Summary
After leaving the ice cream parlor, Jean Louise has coffee with Hank at the drugstore. Without intending to say it, she tells him that she isn’t going to marry him. Hank doesn’t take her seriously until she goes on to say that she has always loved him, but she isn’t in love with him; she had thought she could marry him feeling as she does, but she had been wrong. When Hank, hurt and confused, tries to take her hand, Jean Louise tells him not to touch her.
Jean Louise’s anger and disillusionment with Hank finally boil over. Confronting him about attending the citizens’ council meeting and sitting with O’Hanlon—“that scum, that dreadful man”—she tells Hank the sight of it had made her throw up. “How in the name of God could you? How could you?” she demands to know. Trying to reason with her, Hank says, “We have to do a lot of things we don’t want to do, Jean Louise.” She does not accept his explanation, nor his subsequent description of the citizens’ council as a “protest to the Court” and “sort of a warning to the Negroes for them not to be in such a hurry ….” Trying to show Jean Louise what he means about sometimes having to take undesirable actions, Hank tells her about Atticus’s having joined the Ku Klux Klan, forty years earlier, to find out who was “behind the masks.” He pleads with her to consider a man’s motives, not just his actions.
When Jean Louise is not swayed by anything he has said, Hank tries to make her understand that to live in Maycomb, his home, and build a life for himself, he must do what is expected of him by the town, “to conform to its ways.” He has worked too hard, for too long, he tells her, to sacrifice what he has achieved. Unlike her, Hank points out, he has only himself to rely on; her actions are often excused in Maycomb because she is a Finch, but he must never stray from acceptable behavior because he comes from “trash.” Jean Louise tells Hank that he is wrong to believe that and leaves the drugstore. Hank follows her outside, where their argument continues. Jean Louise accuses him of being “scared of Maycomb” and of being a hypocrite. “I cannot live with a hypocrite,” she says. Jean Louise is unaware that Atticus is standing behind her on the sidewalk. “I don’t know why you can’t,” he says. “Hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as anybody.” She turns to see her father smiling at her.
Chapter 17 Summary
After interrupting Hank and Jean Louise, Atticus speaks privately with his daughter at his office. He has heard from Jack that she is “on the warpath,” or about to be. Jean Louise acknowledges that she is upset and tells him that his involvement with the citizens’ council is “disgusting.” Atticus explains that Maycomb’s council is not like the citizens’ councils she has read about in the New York papers, with accounts of “wild threats and bombings and such.” All the men on Maycomb’s council, he says, are probably there for different reasons; his reasons are “the Federal Government and the NAACP.”
Jean Louise has no intention of arguing with Atticus, always a losing proposition, but when he asks how she had reacted to the recent Supreme Court decision, Jean Louise answers, thinking it’s a “safe question.” She was “furious” about the decision, she tells Atticus, because the Court “rubbed out” the Tenth Amendment in favor of another, a dangerous precedent, and she resents the Court’s “tellin’ us what to do again.” Atticus offers that she is “such a states’ rightist” that he is “a Roosevelt Liberal by comparison”; they believe in “the very same things,” he says.
The conversation becomes contentious when Jean Louise insists that despite the Court’s decision being “hateful,” it was necessary; it’s time to “do right,” she says, and give Negroes “a chance.” Atticus rejects the idea that Negroes are denied freedom and opportunity. He also contends that they are too “backward” to be allowed to vote and that living with them in an integrated society is unthinkable. Atticus’s racist views belie what Jean Louise had grown up believing about him; in truth, she thinks, there is no sense of justice or compassion in her father’s character.
Finally unleashing her anger against Atticus for betraying her, Jean Louise calls him a “snob” and a “tyrant,” as well as a “coward” for letting O’Hanlon speak for him at the council meeting, instead of stating his views himself. She can’t seem to stop as she continues to denounce her Atticus, sarcastically listing all the things he had not told when she was a child, like the difference between “justice and justice” and between “right and right.” Out of control, Jean Louise accuses Atticus of seeing black people as “subhuman” and compares him to Hitler: “You just try to kill their souls instead of their bodies.”
Throughout his daughter’s tirade, Atticus retains his composure. When Jean Louise speaks of his cheating her in an “inexpressible” way and of destroying her trust, Atticus replies enigmatically, “I’ve killed you, Scout. I had to.” Telling Atticus, “I despise you and everything you stand for,” Jean Louise is incensed by his reply: “Well, I love you.” She wants nothing more to do any of the Finches, she says, and plans to leave Maycomb at once. Atticus, unperturbed, replies, “As you please.” Jean Louise is crushed by his lack of concern after hurting her so deeply. “You son of a bitch,” she says to Atticus, prompting him to end their conversation: “That’ll do, Jean Louise.” Recognizing Atticus’s “general call to order in the days when she believed” and remembering his “I love you,” Jean Louise wonders how Atticus can “taunt” her and treat her so cruelly.
Chapter 18 Summary
Leaving Atticus’s office, Jean Louise drives home and starts throwing clothes into a suitcase. When Alexandra interrupts her with unsolicited advice about how Finches behave, Jean Louise loses her temper. She says hateful things to her aunt, making Alexandra cry. Jean Louise feels ashamed for hurting her and asks for her forgiveness. “That’s all right,” Alexandra says, wiping her tears.
Jean Louise closes her suitcase and carries it outside to the car just as Jack Finch arrives in a taxi. Hearing her plans to get out of Maycomb, Jack attempts to talk to her, but a very agitated Jean Louise says she is “sick and damned tired of listening to the lot of you ….” When she asks Jack to “get off my back for one minute,” he backhands her twice, bloodying her lip. “I am trying,” Uncle Jack says, “to attract your attention.”
Taking Jean Louise inside, Jack tends to her bloody lip and tells Alexandra to bring him some “missionary vanilla,” the whiskey she uses in baking fruitcakes. Settling Jean Louise in the living room, Jack makes her slug a few ounces of the whiskey and chase it with a drink of water. While Jean Louise is collecting herself, Jack goes into the kitchen, returns with a drink of his own, and begins to explain what has happened to her since arriving in Maycomb. He knows everything Jean Louise had said to Atticus at the office, and he promises to “talk straight” to her, “[b]ecause I can, now.”
Jack tells Jean Louise that “every man’s watchman” is his own conscience. He explains that while growing up, she had “confused [Atticus] with God,” never seeing her father as a man with human flaws and always assuming that their values were identical. Coming home and watching Atticus act in ways that seemed “the very antithesis of his conscience” had been unbearably painful, but Atticus’s actions had violated her conscience, not his. He and Atticus, Jack tells her, had long wondered when “your conscience and his would part company, and over what.” For Jean Louise to become her own person, “a separate entity,” Atticus had allowed her during their conversation in the office to destroy her “icons” and to “reduce him to the status of a human being.” Remembering Atticus’s patience as she had tried to “obliterate” him, Jean Louise understands what Jack has told her, but her uncle isn’t through.
Jack points out that Jean Louise has been courageous in confronting Atticus and challenging his beliefs, but she has been a “turnip-sized bigot” in rejecting Maycomb out of hand because she has heard “some pretty offensive talk” since coming back. She also has misjudged her father, Jack says: “[T]he Klan can parade around all it wants, but when it starts bombing and beating people, don’t you know who’d be the first to try and stop it?” After talking more with Jack, Jean Louise feels ashamed of her behavior with Atticus and doubts she can face him again. Jack makes light of the idea and tells her to go collect Atticus at the office and drive him home.
On her way to pick up Atticus, Jean Louise takes Jack home, and their conversation continues. Jack asks her to consider moving back to Maycomb. When she says she could not live in Maycomb, “with me on one side and everybody else on the other,” Jack replies, “[T]he time your friends need you is when they’re wrong, Jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right.” She stops the car in front of Jack’s house and speaks briefly of her relationship with Hank; Jack knows that eventually she will end it. When Jean Louise asks her uncle why he has devoted so much time to her, he says that she and Jem “were the children I never had” and that he had been in love with their mother. He is quite surprised that Atticus and Alexandra had never told her about it. Grateful for having Uncle Jack, Jean Louise drives away.
Chapter 19 Summary
Walking into the foyer at Atticus’s law practice, Jean Louise sees Hank sitting at his desk. They make a date for that evening; their romance will end, but their friendship will endure. Like everything in Maycomb County, Hank is “a part of her.” When Atticus hears Jean Louise’s voice, he calls to her from his office. About to see him again, Jean Louise feels apprehensive. Atticus walks into the foyer, retrieves his hat and walking stick from the hat rack, and asks her nonchalantly, “Ready?” Jean Louise can’t understand how Atticus can ignore the awful way she has so recently treated him.
Going to Atticus, Jean Louise starts to apologize, but he cuts her off. “You may be sorry, but I’m proud of you.” Looking at her father’s face, she sees that he is smiling. Jean Louise is at a loss; Atticus, she says, and men in general, are a mystery to her, and she will never understand them. Atticus explains that he is proud of Jean Louise for standing up for “what she thinks is right,” beginning with him. When Jean Louise reminds Atticus that she had called him “some pretty grim things,” he seems unconcerned, even amused. “You don’t even know how to cuss, Jean Louise,” he says.
Thinking of all that she has learned in Maycomb since coming home, Jean Louise finds irony in her own behavior: “I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me.” She knows she can’t change Atticus’s thinking, and neither can she adopt it; she can’t “beat him,” and she can’t “join him.”
“Atticus?” Jean Louise says. “I think I love you very much.” Relaxing visibly, Atticus replies, “Let’s go home, Scout. It’s been a long day.”