In Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, why did Atticus Finch move out of his house, where an ice cream parlor now resides?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter Three of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise Finch reflects upon the occurrences following her brother's sudden death. When Jem is taken by the same heart ailment that had also ended his mother's life at a young age, Atticus' sister Alexandra explains what she believes to be her niece's responsibilities in light of Jem's death—that Jean Louise leave New York and return to Maycomb to live with Atticus.

Jean Louise tries to explain to her aunt that these changes would not help Atticus at all:

Don't you see that unless we go back to what we were doing before this happened, our recovery'll be far slower? ...[T]he only way I can do my duty to Atticus is by...making my own living and my own life.

In spite of all of Alexandra's ideas, Atticus decides how he wants to move forward with his life.

Jean Louise reflects:

He is an incredible man, she thought. A chapter of his life comes to a close, Atticus tears down the old house and builds a new one in a new section of town. I couldn't do it.

This excerpt reveals that it is far easier for Atticus to build a new home in a different part Maycomb than to stay in the house where not only his wife had died, but also where he raised Jem. The old house is gone and no remnant of homestead it once was remains: even the outbuildings and the trees are gone. The land has become home to an ice cream parlor, and no vestige of the Finches' years there remains.

Atticus not only leaves the house, but demolishes it—making a clean break from the past.

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