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Go Set a Watchman

Discussion in 'Books & Publications Forum' started by Crabtownboy, May 2, 2016.

  1. Crabtownboy

    Crabtownboy Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Feb 12, 2008
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    Harper Lee's second novel is about growing up and discovering the world is not as simple as it seemed during childhood. Set years after "To Kill a Mockingbird", Jean Louise is a grown woman, living in New York City. She returns home on vacation and discovers that the simple world she grew up in and believed in did not exist; had never existed. She also discovered, what I believe we all discover as we become adults, that growing up is hard. Jean Louise discovers that her father is not the perfect man who she had always believed in and loved. Like the large majority of people she is forced, kicking and screaming, to leave the black and while world of childhood and face the shades of gray world of adulthood.

    Harper Lee was a master wordsmith as well as a deep thinker. This is a book that should be added to the required reading list, but to be read after "To Kill a Mockingbird".

    From, Go Set a Watchman:

    “Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”
    “As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings—I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes ’em like all of us.”
    “Why doesn’t their flesh creep? How can they devoutly believe everything they hear in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up?"
    #1 Crabtownboy, May 2, 2016
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
  2. Zenas

    Zenas Active Member

    May 7, 2007
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    I agree with the critics that it is a lesser book than To Kill a Mockingbird. However, the brouhaha over Atticus having changed his colors (pun intended) is wrong. Atticus Finch is the same man with the same values in both books. However times have changed from Mockingbird (1935-38) to Watchman (1955). In Mockingbird the social structure of the old South was completely intact. Negroes were ignorant, deferential toward whites and desperately poor. The races lived in close proximity and enjoyed a sort of symbiotic relationship, with the blacks offering cheap and plentiful labor and whites offering housing, food, a little money and sometimes even protection from white predators. However, racial integration was not even on the table for discussion. Like all good lawyers, Atticus believes in justice for all, although in his world justice for all is entirely different from social equality. He never once advocates racial integration, and he actually affirms most of the social mores of the area in which he lives and works. Atticus is a child of the South.

    Twenty years later Brown v. Board of Education has ushered in the civil rights movement and the Negroes are still ignorant and desperately poor. However, they are no longer as deferential toward whites as they used to be. Where warmth and affection had previously existed across the color line, these have been reduced to mere politeness. Representatives of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations are moving through the South urging blacks to stand up and assert themselves, demanding integrated schools, transportation and public accommodations. Atticus wants no part of it and, like all the other white people of Maycomb, Alabama, he fights back.

    The only strange part of Go Set a Watchman is the reaction of Jean Louise Finch to the white response to the nascent civil rights movement. She becomes physically sick when she observes Atticus and her boyfriend, Henry Clinton, at a Citizens Council meeting. This may be expected of a young woman who grew up and came of age in the North, and knew nothing of Southern customs and mores. However, Jean Louise, like her father Atticus, is a child of the South. In this respect, Harper Lee's characterization of Jean Louise is a little far fetched and seems even more improbable in light of the fact that she is herself a child of the South.