Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

Looking at Harper Lee's characterization of Scout in both the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, what kind of person is she? Has she changed from the person she is in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird progresses, protagonist Jean Louise Finch, nicknamed Scout, matures into a very understanding person who rejects prejudiced and racist views. Due to her father's guidance, she becomes the type of person who understands you can't judge or "know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them" (Ch. 31). Her rejection of prejudice is seen in her newfound acceptance and appreciation of Arthur Radley, called Boo Radley by the neighborhood children, and her rejection of racism is seen in her newfound appreciation of her father's attempt to win the case defending Tom Robinson, regardless of the fact Atticus knew he would lose due to the town's racism. Yet, though she develops these maturities, there are many aspects of her personality that remain the same throughout To Kill a Mockingbird. For example, she continues to reject notions of femininity, remains stubbornly independent, and, though she begins keeping her fists down, she remains ready to fight for what she deems to be just causes. We see all of these same attributes in the adult Jean Louise Finch of Lee's Go Set a Watchman, which was actually written prior to To Kill Mockingbird.

Jean Louise's stubborn independence is revealed in the very first chapter of Go Set a Watchman, even when she is still on the train traveling home from New York City to Maycomb. For example, she notes that trains were now structured so that many things were now at her beck and call: "[A] fat genie of a porter materialized when she pressed a button on a wall; at her bidding stainless steel washbasin popped out of another wall" (Ch. 1). The fact that she enjoys having things at her beck and call indicates she likes to control things. Only the independent like to be in complete control; therefore, these descriptions of her activities on the train help portray her as stubbornly independent. Her stubbornness is further portrayed when she narrates that she had "ignored an injunction to PULL THIS LEVER DOWN OVER BRACKETS," which led to her bed folding her up "into the wall" so that she needed assistance from the porter. Only one who is stubbornly independent, just like we saw when she was young Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, would ignore important directions, which would lead to dire consequences.

By Chapter 8 of Go Set a Watchman, we further see just how much Jean Louise has held on to the beliefs she learned from her father that have helped her develop into a very understanding person who rejects racism and prejudices. In Chapter 8, Jean Louise is horrified to discover a brochure her father owns that preaches extremely racist beliefs. She also learns that Atticus is on the board of directors of the Maycomb County citizens council, and Jean Louise knows from reading newspapers that citizens councils have formed all over the South with the purpose of promoting the interests of white Southerners. She then quickly goes to the courthouse to observe the meeting and hears Atticus introduce a man named Grady O'Hanlon, who makes a raving speech that is so full of racist remarks it makes her ill. Jean Louise's responses in Chapter 8 show us that she still rejects racism and other prejudices.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial