Go Set a Watchman
August 11, 2015
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My curiousity got the best of me and I read Go Set a Watchman (B) by Harper Lee. Having read the reviews, I was ready for Atticus to be a racist but I also wanted to be part of the conversation. Actually, I was rather shocked at the extent of his racism.
Set after To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is now 72 years old. Scout or Jean Louise as she is now referred to comes back to Maycomb for a visit. She’s been away awhile living and working in New York City. She returns “home” to find change, drastic change. While she affectionately reminisces about her childhood, family and friends, she realizes that these memorable events have shaped her into the woman she is today. She is not “Scout” anymore but Jean Louise a woman with very different ideas.
She secrets herself in the balcony of a church where she eavesdrops on a City Council meeting that her father and best friend Henry are conducting. The guest speaker is discussing the current state of Negro affairs in Maycomb. His words, actions and the attention he’s gotten from others at this meeting have made Jean Louise physically sick. She is horrified that her father has sat an allowed the discussion to continue.
Eventually, she and Atticus come to the moment when they “have their say”. It is not pretty but it is the key to the entire story. The back of the book has a quote that says, “every man has a watchman his conscience”. Scout is the books’ conscience. Once I understood this, the book came full circle for me.
Recently, I read an article that stated some bookstores were refunding readers their money because the book was not what they expected. They were offended that Atticus was a racist. I am willing to bet that these dissatisfied readers didn’t read the story. If they had, they would have realized that they really get their money’s worth. Harper Lee wrote this in 1950 when it wasn’t common for white voices to speak in defense of Negro men and women. Perhaps this is why the book never got published.
I encourage everyone to read this with an open mind. You will see Atticus as a racist, however, if this is the only thing that you take away then I sincerely believe you will have missed the point.