Go Set a Watchman

Page 62

“You were sort of short, but Atticus, that man—”

“Mr. O’Hanlon’s not prejudiced, Jean Louise. He’s a sadist.”

“Then why did you all let him get up there?”

“Because he wanted to.”


“Oh yes,” said her father vaguely. “He goes about addressing citizens’ councils all over the state. He asked permission to speak to ours and we gave it to him. I rather think he’s paid by some organization in Massachusetts—”

Her father swung away from her and looked out the window. “I’ve been trying to make you see that the Maycomb council, at any rate, is simply a method of defense against—”

“Defense, hell! Atticus, we aren’t on the Constitution now. I’m trying to make you see something. You now, you treat all people alike. I’ve never in my life seen you give that insolent, back-of-the-hand treatment half the white people down here give Negroes just when they’re talking to them, just when they ask ’em to do something. There’s no get-along-there-nigger in your voice when you talk to ’em.

“Yet you put out your hand in front of them as a people and say, ‘Stop here. This is as far as you can go!’”

“I thought we agreed that—”

Her voice was heavy with sarcasm: “We’ve agreed that they’re backward, that they’re illiterate, that they’re dirty and comical and shiftless and no good, they’re infants and they’re stupid, some of them, but we haven’t agreed on one thing and we never will. You deny that they’re human.”

“How so?”

“You deny them hope. Any man in this world, Atticus, any man who has a head and arms and legs, was born with hope in his heart. You won’t find that in the Constitution, I picked that up in church somewhere. They are simple people, most of them, but that doesn’t make them subhuman.

“You are telling them that Jesus loves them, but not much. You are using frightful means to justify ends that you think are for the good of the most people. Your ends may well be right—I think I believe in the same ends—but you cannot use people as your pawns, Atticus. You cannot. Hitler and that crowd in Russia’ve done some lovely things for their lands, and they slaughtered tens of millions of people doing ’em….”

Atticus smiled. “Hitler, eh?”

“You’re no better. You’re no damn better. You just try to kill their souls instead of their bodies. You just try to tell ’em, ‘Look, be good. Behave yourselves. If you’re good and mind us, you can get a lot out of life, but if you don’t mind us, we will give you nothing and take away what we’ve already given you.’

“I know it’s got to be slow, Atticus, I know that full well. But I know it’s got to be. I wonder what would happen if the South had a ‘Be Kind to the Niggers Week’? If just for one week the South would show them some simple, impartial courtesy. I wonder what would happen. Do you think it’d give ’em airs or the beginnings of self-respect? Have you ever been snubbed, Atticus? Do you know how it feels? No, don’t tell me they’re children and don’t feel it: I was a child and felt it, so grown children must feel, too. A real good snub, Atticus, makes you feel like you’re too nasty to associate with people. How they’re as good as they are now is a mystery to me, after a hundred years of systematic denial that they’re human. I wonder what kind of miracle we could work with a week’s decency.

“There was no point in saying any of this because I know you won’t give an inch and you never will. You’ve cheated me in a way that’s inexpressible, but don’t let it worry you, because the joke is entirely on me. You’re the only person I think I’ve ever fully trusted and now I’m done for.”

“I’ve killed you, Scout. I had to.”

“Don’t you give me any more double-talk! You’re a nice, 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.”

“Don’t you dare say that to me! Love me, huh! Atticus, I’m getting out of this place fast, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m going. I never want to see another Finch or hear of one as long as I live!”

“As you please.”

“You double-dealing, ring-tailed old son of a bitch! You just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when you’ve knocked me down and stomped on me and spat on me, you just sit there and say ‘As you please’ when everything I ever loved in this world’s—you just sit there and say ‘As you please’—you love me! You son of a bitch!”

“That’ll do, Jean Louise.”

That’ll do, his general call to order in the days when she believed. So he kills me and gives it a twist … how can he taunt me so? How can he treat me so? God in heaven, take me away from here … God in heaven, take me away….



SHE NEVER KNEW how she got the car started, how she held it in the road, how she got home without a serious accident.

I love you. As you please. Had he not said that, perhaps she would have survived. If he had fought her fairly, she could have flung his words back at him, but she could not catch mercury and hold it in her hands.

She went to her room and threw her suitcase onto the bed. I was born right where this suitcase is. Why didn’t you throttle me then? Why did you let me live this long?

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