Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type



English Language and Literatures

Director of Thesis

Tara Powell

Second Reader

Anne Gulick


A crucial theme throughout Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is the struggle between individual morality and collective consciousness, as exemplified by black and white relations in the American South. In this thesis, I explore the biblical concept of a “watchman” as referenced in the novel’s title and what conclusions can be drawn from delving into the literary and biblical contexts of this allusion. I utilize this as a framework to explore how and why the characters of Watchman exist in such fragmented, defensive states as opposed to their Mockingbird counterparts, and what these differences imply regarding the importance or nonimportance of individual culpability in societal ethical failures. In examining Jean Louise’s childhood as compared to her adulthood, I seek to understand how such hostile race consciousness and morality coexist in the white, largely churchgoing South. By studying the differences in the novels along with the title’s greater meaning, I level charges of collective culpability against the novels’ main characters, then argue for or against them, in an attempt to greater comprehend who can be held guilty and who remains innocent in the battle between the South’s collective and individual consciences.

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