I had to read Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman” in spite of all the hype and controversy about it. With “To Kill A Mockingbird” remaining my favorite story after all these years and Scout my favorite POV character, reading its prequel was a foregone conclusion. Being an early draft of something set aside, it’s a bit rough, but it’s worth the read. I’m not quite finished, but I have been taken in and find myself wondering how other readers are responding.
Here is what comes up for me. Scout (she’s still Scout for me, not Jeane Louise) no longer fits in Maycomb or with her father. Though the relationship between blacks and whites there had changed since her childhood, that alone is not what provides “Go Set A Watchman” with its emotional power. It’s that what Scout saw in her father during her childhood is in such polar opposition to what she is seeing in him when she returns as an adult. Coming back, she brings with her the memories of Atticus that made him her hero and set her expectations of him, herself, and the world. Now, in her mid twenties, returning to a changing Maycomb – but not all that much changed – her father seems a different man – to Scout less of a man. She is deeply disappointed, even disgusted with the man she revered. The man who shaped her.
Many POV characters are haunted by ghosts of the past. Scout – okay, Jean Louise – seems haunted by a vision of a perfect man. For me, finishing the story means seeing how she reconciles the image of Atticus she can’t give up with the man who has let her down with such a crash.
I’m looking forward to seeing now Jean Louise – no Scout – reconciles her treasured image of Atticus with what she is now seeing through the lens of a young grown up. Can she bring to a comfortable new place an image of her father she doesn’t want to give up? Can you, the reader, do this?
I’d love to hear from other readers of “Go Set A Watchman.” What are your thoughts?