So when Go Set a Watchman came out, I refused to read it because of the controversy surrounding it…but I’m curious and when a student suggested we read it together as an independent study, I agreed. I have to admit, I’m so glad I decided to read it. The complexity of Go Set a Watchman derives from the turmoil Jean Louise (Scout) goes through upon returning home and finding her father and her boyfriend involved in certain activities.
This really is Jean Louise’s book, whereas To Kill A Mockingbird is Scout’s story. Although there are flashbacks to her youth with Dill and Jem, the novel focuses on Jean Louise’s struggles as a young independent woman who returns to her hometown and discovers she doesn’t seem to belong there anymore. I adored her uncle Jack Finch in this, a retired eccentric with a huge cat, who offers her advice and perspective on her situation. I also love the sense of humor Harper Lee wrote with, and the amusing anecdotes of Jean Louise’s life–I could really relate to her as a young woman.
While there have certainly been debates about the circumstances in which the book was published, there will also be debates about who is and who is not a racist in the book. In addition to the question of race, Jean Louise has to learn to stop viewing her father as a God and see him as a man.
Here are some favorite quotes:
- “It has never fully occurred to Jean Louise that she was a girl: her life has been one of reckless, pummeling activity; fighting, football, climbing, keeping up with Jem, and besting anyone her own age in any contest requiring physical prowess” (116).
- “She glances with satisfaction at the neat swath behind her. The grass lay crisply cut and smelled like a creek bank. The course of English literature would have been decidedly different had Mr. Wordsworth owned a power mover, she thought” (143).
- “He had not changed. His face was the same as always. I don’t know why I expected him to be looking like Dorian Gray or somebody” (146).