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Jean Louise Finch in Go Set a Watchman: Character Analysis

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Go Set a Watchman

In the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird- Go Set a Watchman- we are reintroduced to Jean Louise Finch, also known as Scout. Many years have passed in the protagonist’s life; she is now in her mid-twenties, and has come home from her busy life in New York to visit her family in Maycomb, Alabama. However, she comes to a startling realization: the town she has grown up in is not the same as it used to be- or at least, as she saw it. Jean Louise is met with a slew of change in her town, from something as small as the developments in the town’s layout, to far more serious differences. Jean Louise finds out that her father, Atticus, and boyfriend, Henry, have been taking part in a racially charged Citizen’s Council. As her world is turned upside

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down, Jean Louise must come to understand that people are flawed, and every man must create his own watchman. The clear theme of this selection is that change is inevitable, and it must be dealt with accordingly. This piece primarily focuses on the internal and personal changes of Jean Louise, such as detaching her conscience from her fathers and allowing herself to become her own person and see Atticus as a man, instead of a “tin god”. In the words of her uncle Jack: “…you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings… You were an emotional cripple… assuming your answers would always be his answers.” (page 265) Jean Louise, before arriving to this conclusion, tries to deny what she had seen earlier. She says, “Atticus and Hank were pulling something, they were there merely to keep an eye on things… it was all a mistake…” (page 104) She soon realizes that her dependency on Atticus and her “color blindness” have led her to see her world through rose colored lenses, so to speak. Go Set a Watchman details her “coming into this world” (page 263), and documents her personal growth and adaptation to change. Harper Lee has shown us all through Jean Louise that we must become our own people, open our eyes- set our watchmen.

Throughout the book, the bible verse “Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth” recurs frequently. In the context of the bible, the watchman is supposed to be announcing coming destruction. He is seen as a type of lookout, a guardian of sorts, and is supposed to make Isaiah aware of the fall of Babylon. In the context of Go Set a Watchman, the watchman symbolizes one’s conscience, as the conscience is a kind of lookout for each person. In the book, Jean Louise’s uncle Jack says, “…Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.” (page 265) He is saying that one’s conscience is what guides them through life. It shows them right from wrong, justice from injustice, and serves as their moral compass. The phrase “go, set a watchman” is symbolic of Jean Louise’s journey to establish her own conscience separate from her father’s, and to see people as they really are. She says, “I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says, but this is what he means… say here is this justice and here is that justice and make me understand the difference.” (pages 181 & 182) The author is trying to make an application of this verse to Jean Louise’s personal growth and needs, as if she using this verse to show Jean Louise that she must in fact go, and set her watchman.

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