Summary and Analysis
Behind the ice cream shop where her childhood home used to stand, Jean Louise vomits. She looks into the backyard of Dill’s great-aunt Rachel and tries to imagine Dill coming to her rescue, but she remembers that Dill is no longer in her life. The man from the ice cream shop sees she has vomited and asks if she remembers his name. She makes a guess that is almost correct, thinking he is a Coningham when he is in fact a Cunningham. She then excuses herself and walks home.
When Jean Louise arrives home, Alexandra chides her for missing her appointment with Jack and for leaving the house dressed in such a fashion. Jean Louise calls Jack to apologize, promising to visit him the next day. When Alexandra asks her what is wrong, Jean Louise says only that her stomach hurts.
Alexandra realizes that Jean Louise went to the citizen’s council meeting. Jean Louise reassures her aunt that no one saw her there. She declares that she is going to bed and tells Alexandra to tell Hank she is “indisposed” when he comes for their date that evening. As Jean Louise falls asleep, she thinks to herself that she was born color blind.
Jean Louise can’t seem to help losing herself in memories as a way of handling her pain, but the memories only make her feel more alone. The comforting thought of Dill coming to her rescue reinforces her sense of isolation when she remembers that Dill is gone. Mr. Cunningham, though his character feels like a simple distraction from the story, also heightens her sense of loneliness. He is a part of Jean Louise’s past in some small way, but he makes her feel more removed from that past because she doesn’t remember him. Instead of bringing comfort, he adds to her sense that she doesn’t belong in Maycomb.
Alexandra, too, offers a form of comfort that isn’t really comfort. She clearly cares for her niece, but her preoccupation with appearances and social propriety make it impossible for her to respond in a soothing way to Jean Louise’s sadness. After learning that Jean Louise is upset because she attended the citizens’ council meeting, Alexandra focuses on appearances, asking if she went dressed “Like That” and where she sat (hence whether anyone saw her in her unkempt state).
Jean Louise responds to her aunt’s ministrations by behaving like the sort of woman Alexandra has always encouraged her to mimic. When Jean Louise declares that she will be “indisposed” when Hank arrives for their date, Jean Louise goes on to say that she will “do what every Christian young white fresh Southern virgin does” during her period: retire to her bed. This behavior is totally unlike Jean Louise, and thus it seems to her to be a fitting response to Hank and Atticus’ apparent betrayal. If they are no longer behaving like themselves, neither will she.
The idea of Jean Louise’s “color-blindness” appears for the first time at the end of this chapter and will continue to be a significant theme in the story. Jean Louise has lived her entire life with the assumption that racial distinctions don’t matter, yet this attitude has blinded her to the ways in which racial factors were always at play in the world around her. Her innocence is admirable on one level but has also made her naive in a way that now seems reprehensible.