It is by no means considered a real sequel to TKAM (To Kill a Mockingbird) so like me, I went in without any expectations but interest as to why it received such controversy. I understand why some may think this novel is incomplete, or insubstantial. The ending is abrupt and people uproared against the portrayal/change in the much loved Atticus Finch. But if you wanted an epic saga then you had better read Lord of the Rings. Imagine it more of a snapshot of an internal conflict that occurs within Scout. It shows reality. It is real life, the change in society; history repeating itself.
Let’s face it, as we grow up we face multiple harsh realities. It’s like a slap in the face. We end up re-evaluate our past beliefs, (How can this be? The veil has been taken away and you see the world for what it is- with all the ugly, complicated and messy truths. Were we blind?) Like Scout (Jean Louise) our constructed world can be shattered when we realise what we once held so dear- our morals, events in our childhood; are not black or white, but simply the hues of grey in between.
Maybe it was never complete to start off with, and we need a certain level of maturity to truly see things as they really are.
Scout struggles hard. As a child she put her father Atticus Finch on a high pedestal, revering him almost as a God. Basing her sense of right and wrong, of morality, justice on the way he had taught her. That all people are equal, individuals. Yet when she returns home, she finds the town in political turmoil, she is disgusted to witness her close family/friends taking part in an act she views as a betrayal. Maycombe is not as it once was and she is physically sick when she cannot process the information for what she believes to be hypocritical behaviour.
“On any other day she would have stood barefoot on the wet grass listening to the mockingbirds’ early service; she would have pondered over the meaninglessness of silent, austere beauty renewing itself with every sunrise and going ungazed at by half the world. She would have walked beneath yellow-ringed pines rising to a brilliant eastern sky, and her senses would have succumbed to the joy of the morning.
It was waiting to receive her, but she neither looked nor listened.”
You could argue that since TKAM Atticus Finch does not change, only more of his character is revealed through the eyes of his daughter. He maintains a sense of justice, his actions ‘to see the man behind the mask’ (to see the harm he can do) and his awareness of race arguably still make him a moral man.
“But a man who has lived by truth—and you have believed in what he has lived—he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing. I think that is why I’m nearly out of my mind.”
Harper Lee intentionally wrote ‘Go Set a Watchman’ with Jean Louise’s ‘childlike voice’ to address such a complex issue (perhaps a link to TKAM) The young and naïve Scout is still within her 26yr old self. She is strong, passionate and upholds her belief no matter who she stands against. That is something to be admired. But, you can definitely hear the little, petulant girl in her- she doesn’t listen to reason and believes her truth is the only one, as…that’s all she’s ever known.
“Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born colour blind.”
Scout learns to uphold her ‘identity’, and accept that everyone is free to act as they see fit, it does not make them any less moral, only more human.
Personally, I enjoyed the quick to read writing style, it’s humour, rhetoric and clever analogies iconic of Harper Lee. It’s been a while since I read TKAM (I honestly had to wiki the plot to remind me) Though the ending confused me a little with it’s politically heavy and heated dialogue (it seemed like the characters knew more than they were letting on to us, and moved on rather quickly) I enjoyed the first 3/4. It is a complex novel that has many discussion points, so definitely something to re-read! I would still give it 4 stars.
Let me know what you think 🙂