Quotes from Go Set a Watchman

6 min readDec 13, 2020


Hardly like Atticus: if you asked him how he was feeling he would tell you, but he never complained; his disposition remained the same, so in order to find out how he was feeling, you had to ask him.

“Rheumatoid arthritis” … “If you tell her she’ll be down here trying to nurse me. The only remedy for this is not to let it beat you.”

page 10

“Aunty, it’s easy to tell somebody what to do — ”

But very hard to make them do it. That’s the cause of most trouble in this world, people not doing as they’re told.”

page 30

Integrity, humor, and patience were the three words for Atticus Finch. .. “I never had a better friend.”

Atticus Finch’s secret of living was so simple it was deeply complex: where most men had codes and tried to live up to them, Atticus lived his to the letter with no fuss, no fanfare, and no soul-searching. His private character was his public character. His code was simple New Testament ethic, its rewards were the respect and devotion of all who knew him. Even his enemies loved him, because Atticus never acknowledged that they were his enemies. He was never a rich man, but he was the richest man his children ever knew.

It is doubtful that he ever sought for meanings; he merely reared his children as best he could, and in terms of the affection his children felt for him, his best was indeed good: he was never too tired to play Keep-Away; he was never too busy to invent marvelous stories; he was never too absorbed in his own problems to listen earnestly to a tale of woe; every night he read aloud to them until his voice cracked.

Jean Louise had never known her mother, and she never knew what a mother was, but she rarely felt the need of one.

pages 114–116

Atticus sent her to a women’s college in Georgia; when she finished he said it was high time she started shifting for herself and why didn’t she go to New York or somewhere. She was vaguely insulted and felt she was being turned out of her own house, but as the years passed she recognized the full value of Atticus’s wisdom; he was growing old and he wanted to die safe in the knowledge that his daughter could fend for herself.

She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, “What would Atticus do?” passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshipped him.

pages 117–118

They were poor, they were diseased and dirty, some were lazy and shiftless, but never in my life was I given the idea that I should despise one, should fear one, should be discourteous to one, or think that I could mistreat one and get away with it. They as a people did not enter my world, nor did I enter theirs: when I went hunting I did not trespass on a Negro’s land, not because it was a Negro’s, but because I was not supposed to trespass on anybody’s land. I was taught never to take advantage of anybody who was less fortunate than myself, whether he be less fortunate in brains, wealth, or social position; it meant anybody, not just Negroes. I was given to understand that the reverse was to be despised. That is the way I was raised, by a black woman and a white man.

page 179

“I’m only trying to make you see beyond men’s acts to their motives. A man can appear to be a part of something not-so-good on its face, but don’t take it upon yourself to judge him unless you know his motives as well. A man can be boiling inside, but he knows a mild answer works better than showing his rage. A man can condemn his enemies, but it’s wiser to know them.”

Page 230

I looked up to you, Atticus, like I never looked up to anybody in my life and never will again. If you had only given me some hint, if you had only broken your word with me a couple of times, if you had been bad-tempered or impatient with me- if you had been a lesser man, maybe I could have taken what I saw you doing. If once or twice you’d let me catch you doing something vile, then I would have understood yesterday. Then I’d have said that’s just His Way, that’s My Old Man, because I’d have been prepared for it somewhere along the line — ”

Her father’s face was compassionate, almost pleading. “You seem to think I’m involved in something positively evil,” he said.

“.. sweet, old gentleman, and I’ll never believe a word you say to me again. I despise you and everything you stand for.”

“Well, I love you.”


“You son of a bitch!”

“That’ll do, Jean Louise.”

“That’ll do, his general call to order in the days when she believed.”

page 250, 253

She looked. It was there, all right. Every word of it. But something was different. She sat in silence, remembering. … “Everything’s still there. It happened. It was. But you know, it’s bearable somehow; It’s — it’s bearable.”

“It’s bearable, Jean Louise, because you are your own person now.”

Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”

“Is that why he didn’t — didn’t lam into me? Is that why he didn’t even try to defend himself?”

“He was letting you break your icons one by one. He was letting you reduce him to the status of a human being.”

Page 264–265

“Bigot,” she read.

A Noun. One obstinately or intolerably devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion.’

What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn’t give. He stays rigid. Doesn’t even try to listen, just lashes out.

You have a tendency not to give anybody elbow room in your mind for their ideas, no matter how silly you think they are.

page 267

She went to him. “Atticus,” she said. “I’m — “

“You may be sorry, but I’m proud of you.”

She looked up and saw her father beaming at her.


“I said I’m proud of you.”

“Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right — stand up to me first of all.”

I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail heavy — it’s a matter of balance. I can’t beat him, and I can’t join him



“I think I love you very much.”

As she welcomed him silently to the human race, the stab of discovery made her tremble a little.

page 277–278




Buddhism, mixed with my current interests in economics, privilege, immigration, etc. Email <my username>@gmail.com