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Go Set A Watchman - My Impressions

Amanda Schick
Jul 16, 2015


On July 14, 2015, the highly anticipated work of Harper Lee(author of To Kill a Mockingbird) Go Set a Watchman was released to the waiting public. Here it is, July 15, 2015, before lunchtime, and I sit with close to 300 pages of literary history behind me. To me, the most incredible part of this book’s publication, is that, some 50 plus years later, these characters get to come back to life. My friends: Jean Louise, Uncle Jack, Atticus, Aunt Alexandra—we get to see them again and learn more about their lives. I loved every minute of reading this book- from the moment I picked it up to the moment I set it down. I love being able to read what Harper Lee first intended to release to her readers.

The novel opens with Jean Louise (as she is most commonly called in this book) returning to her childhood town of Maycomb, Alabama. It is wonderful to see how Scout has developed into a grown woman of 26. Her convictions that she held as a child have become even stronger, but one thing has not changed: she still idolizes her dear father, Atticus, now aged 72 and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. I would almost classify this book as a coming of age story for Jean Louise. The ivory pedestal she has placed Atticus upon comes crashing down when she sees him taking part in something that does not line up with what she believes to be true of him. She now comes to believe that her beloved father, who she reveres so much, is not the man he claims to be. The book follows Jean Louise along on this journey of discovery as she grapples with what this realization means to her. So many of us go through something similar in our own lives—that moment when we realize that someone we highly respect may not be all that we think they are. Every reader will be able to relate to Jean Louise and her sadness as she comes to terms with all of this.

Readers are upset by this new depiction of Atticus as a racist man. But to me, this just further humanizes him. Yes, it is disturbing to see a character we admire so deeply speaking and acting in such terms, but as an author, Lee keeps her characters and their behaviors true to the times. Just because Atticus holds convictions that express racist beliefs does not discount the admirable things we see him do inTo Kill a Mockingbird. I encourage readers to read this book as itsownnovel-not as a sequel/prequel/etc… to the book we love so much. In fact, this is a completely different story and deserves to be seen as such.

Lee once again covers a lot of issues that were prevalent during the times- especially the prominence of the NAACP and the South. I love her boldness. A white woman writing these bold things in those precarious times. And as it is, her words are surely relevant to us today. I wanted to carry a pen with me all during my first reading of this novel, but I felt it necessary to enjoy it on its own before I read with too much of an analytical eye, but one quote did reach out to me. Uncle Jack, trying to reason with Scout, says, “ ‘You’re color blind, Jean Louise… You always have been, you always will be. The only differences you see between one human and another are differences in looks and intelligence and in character and the like. You’ve never been prodded to look at people as a race, and now that race is the burning issue of the day, you’re still unable to think racially. You only see people.’ “ I believe that Harper Lee must be a woman very much like our beloved Scout- color blind, as I think we should all be as well. I am so grateful for this book, its publication, and the chance to have it as part of our literary canon. It’s not every day that history is made. Thank you Harper Lee for sharing your words with us.

Amanda Schick
Children's Library Assistant