Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

I pre-ordered Go Set a Watchman from Amazon and read it quickly this week. I was fascinated as everyone else is about the other novel that Harper Lee wrote around the time she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, and suspicious about why it was being published 55 years later, when the author does not seem to have her complete mental faculties.

The book is so full of racist hate language that it was practically unreadable for me. The actual story is not even something I can call a novel. It is set in the 1950s and Scout is now 26 years old and her father, Atticus Finch is 72. Scout is now called Jean Louise and she lives in New York. She spends two weeks a year in her hometown in Maycomb, Alabama. Nothing much happens until she discovers that her father, sometime boyfriend Henry, and just about all the men in Maycomb have been attending white supremacist meetings. They not only cannot bear that Blacks may be getting their long-overdue civil rights, but they hurl hate language at the NAACP and the Supreme Court for the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision. The rest of the book is about Jean Louise’s utter disappointment in Atticus, reflecting what everyone who idealized him in To Kill a Mockingbird now feels. But it’s even worse. Jean Louise, who has to be a stand in for Harper Lee, expresses plenty of racist thoughts herself, that “Negroes are backwards” and plenty more. She fights Atticus, agreeing with him that Blacks are inferior, but they “are still human”. I couldn’t bear it, and needed to put myself out of this misery as soon as possible. I did manage to reach the end of the book only to encounter another main theme: Jean Louise’ uncle manages to convince her to stand up for her own thoughts but to respect the thoughts of her racist, white supremacist father. What a bunch of bullshit. Sorry for my language.

I cannot believe that this so-called novel, or backwards political tract, got published. My theory of why it was not published was probably due to the good sense of Harper’s sister Alice Lee, who died a couple of years ago a the age of 103. She was a lawyer and her confidante, housemate and gatekeeper. She may have been the person who inspired the character of Atticus, as Harper Lee once called Alice “Atticus in a skirt”. Alice was interviewed in the 2010 documentary “Hey Boo” about Harper. I found her to be very bright, sensible and protective of her sister’s privacy as well as her loss of cognitive functions. I think that Alice was right to make sure that Go Set a Watchman not get published. It is a poorly written work and filled with hate and ignorance. After Alice died it looks like the publishing business went crazy trying to make money on Harper’s reputation…and they made a big mistake. It will be hard now to ever read To Kill a Mockingbird without the knowledge and disappointment in knowing what happened to Scout when she grew up and Atticus as he got old.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jill's Journal
    Jul 17, 2015 @ 19:00:59

    Yes, I had read something about the complete difference in characters that we had loved in Mockingbird now racist, etc.– and that’s why I didn’t buy the book. Sad to think how the publishers will do anything for money.

    Reply

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