When I finished Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, all I could say was, “wow”. I think the world needed this book. It provides a look into racial tensions and breaks down the idyllic family set up in To Kill A Mockingbird. Definitely, Mockingbird needed to come first, but Watchman has its place in the world as well.
Watchman hits straight on the head what I imagine was the internal conflict within many white Southerners. They may not have hated blacks, but they sure didn’t want them mixing with their kind. Atticus was okay upholding the law and protecting the name of innocence, but he didn’t want to grant equality to blacks. They could work for him but not with him. In fact, later in the novel, Atticus argues that the blacks are not sophisticated enough to live in the world of white people.
This novel is also a coming of age story for Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Mockingbird was a young coming of age story, but Watchman is an older coming of age story in which Scout has to find her own conscience and voice. She says about Atticus, “The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, ‘He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,’ had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.” At first she tries to blame herself, but through the wisdom of her uncle, she comes to realize that maybe her father is not perfect which frees her to be her own person.
New characters are introduced that don’t fit into the plot of Mockingbird, but I think I can dismiss that by saying Mockingbird came from a child’s limited scope of view. To Kill A Mockingbird still remains on my list of novels that I hope to teach someday, and Go Set A Watchman only serves as a way to enhance the first published story. Thank you, Harper Lee, for adding more levels to these already dynamic characters. I give this a 5 out of 5 as a stand-alone book and a 4 out of 5 as a sequel to Mockingbird because of the inconsistencies.
“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”