Summary and Analysis
Jean Louise goes to her father’s law office and sees Hank. They make a dinner date for that evening. Jean Louise thinks to herself that Hank is an undeniable part of her life even though she will never be anything more than his oldest friend.
Atticus appears and casually asks if she is ready to leave. She is frightened by his voice, expecting him to be angry. Instead, he beams at her and says he is proud of her. He tells her he always hoped his daughter would stand up for what she believes is right, even to her own father. She apologizes for the names she called him, but he brushes off her insults, saying she doesn’t even know how to cuss properly.
As they leave, she tells Atticus that she thinks she loves him. “Let’s go home, Scout,” he says. She watches him struggle into the car, thinking of him for the first time as a human being instead of a deity. She gets into the driver’s seat, being careful not to hit her head on the low car roof.
After the intensity of the previous three chapters, this final chapter is startlingly calm and brief. Instead of providing a tidy resolution to the problems and questions raised by Jean Louise’s arguments with Hank, Atticus, and Jack, Chapter 19 offers only hints of resolution. Jean Louise’s relationships with Atticus and Hank seem like they will be restored (though she will never marry Hank), and Jean Louise appears to begin to recognize her father’s humanity. Her care not to hit her head on the car, after the opening scene with Hank, signifies that she is finally beginning to accept the changes in her life. She has come of age at last.
Atticus’ unexpected response to Jean Louise in this chapter—being delighted at her boldness when she expected him to be angry—may call into question where Atticus really stands on issues of race. Is he proud of her simply because she was bold enough to stand up for her beliefs? Or did he intentionally allow Jean Louise to misunderstand his own views about race in order to encourage her to think for herself? The absence of a clear answer to this question is, itself, part of the point of the narrative. For Jean Louise, what her father’s views are no longer matters in the way it once seemed to matter. What matters is that they are both human, both of them less than perfect.
The understatement of this last chapter, the care not to say too much or reach too firm a conclusion, is clear in Jean Louise’s last words to her father: “I think I love you very much.” Her qualifying “I think” turns a commonplace declaration of love into something uncertain and unsettled. Her love is clear, but it is also more complex than it used to be.