When I heard that the amazing Harper Lee had written another book, to say that I was excited would be an understatement. When it finally showed up to my house, I was beyond ecstatic. To Kill a Mockingbird was (and still is) by far one of my favorite books, so I knew that I would love Go Set a Watchman just as much. And I was right, the love I have for this book, I can’t even explain it.
I can honestly say that I think that what made my experience of reading Go Set a Watchman as great as it was, was that I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird before I picked up this book (which by the way killed me a little bit inside because I just wanted to dig right into this book!) I believe that the experience of reading these two books together gave it a sense of one full story, honestly I feel like it could’ve been one really long book (and yes I would’ve read it all!) instead of seeing them as two separate stories, a book and its sequel. I feel that it does both books more justice to read them together, not separate. So if you take anything away from this review….let it be that!
As I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird (for probably the third time), I found myself seeing things that I hadn’t seen before. I was getting a completely different view of the book. When I read it or the first time I felt such a connection with Scout that I blocked out the most important detail of To Kill a Mockingbird, it wasn’t even Scout’s story….it was Atticus’. I know, I know you’re probably thinking “umm but wait Scout was the one telling the story how can you say it wasn’t hers?!?”, and I get that, but I feel like it was still more focused on Atticus than Scout. Scout was the narrator and she was trying to get across her view of her father and all of the amazing things that he did and the lessons that he was trying to teach her and her brother. (In case you missed it I did a review on To Kill a Mockingbird…go check it out!)
Transitioning from To Kill a Mockingbird to Go Set a Watchman, I felt the story dynamic change a little and I soon came to realize that this was Scout’s story, which was probably why I loved this book so much. Scout is my favorite character from To Kill a Mockingbird, I felt such a great connection with her.
In both books Scout is forced to face some harsh realities, some that will turn her world completely upside down. One of the most difficult things about growing up is seeing what the world is really like, realizing that you had this idea in your head about how the world would be when you were older and slowly realizing how wrong you were. We’ve all been there. Think about it, when you were a little kid I’m sure you had plans, ideas about how your life would go. I know I did. Now I’m not saying that I thought the world was all sunshine and rainbows, because that’s definitely not the case. But I will say that I did think that I would be in a completely different place than I am now; and watching the world around me unfold into what it has…verses what it used to be…..it’s scary, devastating and disappointing.
After reading other reviews on the book, I’ve noticed there was a ruckus about Atticus Finch, people saying that he’s changed. But if you really think about it for a minute, I don’t think that is the case. (Don’t shoot the messenger this is just my opinion!!) If you think about it, To Kill a Mockingbird was told by a young Scout, a little girl who looked up to her father and saw the good in him. Go Set a Watchman is based on an older Scout; one who has lived her life and moved on from her small little town, of course there’s a chance she’s going to see a difference in her father. As a 26 year old woman, Scout can now see the things that she was blind to as a child.
If you think about it, in Mockingbird when Atticus is defending Tom he is defending him because he knows him to be innocent of the charge of rape, not once did Atticus mention the color of Tom’s skin in direct relation to the case. Atticus is defending him only for the sake of justice, nothing else. When reading the book for the first time, one might miss that point. I know I did, I mean I was only in seventh grade when I read it for the first time. The way that Scout tells the story of her father defending Tom it makes it seem as though he could possibly be doing it because he believes that Tom should have a fair trial because if anyone else had taken his case it would have ended in a completely different way, simply because of the color of his skin. However, after re-reading it and reading Watchman with it, you can see the difference, simply by the actions of Atticus in the sequel.
Would I say that Atticus is racist? No I wouldn’t, I highly disagree with that. Atticus understood the big picture, we as human beings, are only capable to do so much. The time period that these books take place in were so different, the mindset was so different. That is not me defending him, giving him and excuse or a justification. We just have to realize that sometimes the time and place of an event or situation matter greatly in how a person will react. Atticus had a lot to consider when Scout and her brother were at home, he was their leading example, their only example. Now that Scout is grown and can make decisions on her own, Atticus has a different mind set and only has himself to think about.
As yourself this question; do you do what’s right most of the time?? No, probably not because no one is perfect. BUT, are you still a good person?? I would say yes. It is possibly to still be a good person even if we don’t do what’s right all of the time. Atticus is no different, it seems to be hard for people to accept that Atticus is just another common human being. For years we have held him up on the same pedestal that little Scout did when she was growing up, it’s difficult for us to see any different, and we don’t want to try out of fear of not liking his character anymore. Just remember, not everyone is perfect, it’s okay to make mistakes, we all do it.
For me, I will forever hold Atticus on that high pedestal. After reading Watchman I might even dare to say that I have more respect for him now that I did before. Being able to show his flaws and see him as a more realistic and relatable character makes him an even better person in my mind.
Scout is of course coming to terms with the different obstacles in her life the same way that she always has, by throwing herself completely into it. She is nothing short of passionate when it comes to her beliefs, which I believe is another reason I was so drawn to her character. When she knows what she wants she doesn’t let anyone or anything stop her from achieving it. I admire that quality in her, I love that she is never afraid to speak the truth no matter how harsh it is, or who will listen to hear her. Her passion in her beliefs and her willingness to be heard, seems to get the attention of Maycomb County.
You will notice while reading Watchman that it has more of an adult feel and perspective than Mockingbird did. You will see Scout (better known in the novel by her given name….Jean Louise) lose her innocence and take on a new view of her home as well as her beloved father. Though she is passionate and strong-willed in her beliefs and ideas Scout’s internal struggles in this book are interesting to read and experience. It can be incredibly scary and difficult to reconcile the upbringing of your childhood with your newfound beliefs of being an adult. Even though I resonated greatly with Scout in Mockingbird, I felt that I resonated with her even more so in Watchman, her journey is one that anyone could relate to.
I highly recommend that if you are going to read Go Set a Watchman that you re-read (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird first. It will do the book more justice. I also highly suggest that you do your best to keep your mind open, don’t think of Watchman as a sequel (even though that’s what it is), give it a chance to mold itself into the story of Mockingbird. You will have a much more enjoyable experience.
Have you read Go Set a Watchman? If you have what did you think? Did you love it? Hate it? Were you indifferent to it? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!