Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why I Love "Go Set A Watchman"

Like everyone else in the world, I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Like everyone else in the world, I was surprised/excited/nervous to hear of the release of Go Set a Watchman. But unlike everyone else in the world, I love Go Set a Watchman and think it a worthy sequel to Harper Lee's classic tale.

I have yet to hear a positive review for Go Set a Watchman. Several have said it was only published because it's Harper Lee, one friend said it was boring but the main complaint has been, it ruins Atticus' character.

***keep in mind this post will, most likely, include spoilers***

In case you haven't read GSaW, the very abridged synopsis goes something like this: Grown-up Scout, now living in New York, returns home to visit Mayberry (←small, southern town...Maycomb, can understand my confusion). Through a series of events she discovers Atticus and her love interest/Atticus' protege are members of the newly formed Citizens' Council. Her world comes crashing down as she realized her father is not who she thought him to be.

Reader's main quibble seems to mirror Scout's feelings perfectly. In To Kill a Mockingbird we all fell in love with Atticus and hailed him as a great Civil Right's activist. So naturally our justice seeking hearts are devastated to learn of our hero supporting something as vile as segregation.

“What would Atticus do?” passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshiped him.”

But don't you see? That's just the point!

People are flawed. Fathers, mothers, friends, celebrities and historical figures. They all get stuff wrong. You can't set you moral compass by any one person. Because they will let you down. And, like Scout, your world and sense of morality will tumble if it's dependent on the supposed goodness of any individual.

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.” 

But, guys? Flawed people can get stuff right, too. Good people aren't always good and bad people aren't always bad. You can learn something from anyone. Atticus' belief in a despicable practice and his ignorant justifications of his beliefs do nothing to change the fact that his actions in To Kill a Mockingbird are noble, right and commendable. Atticus is a good father. He did good works. But he is flawed and has flawed thinking. He's human.

“As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings—I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes ’em like all of us.” 

I would like to tell you about my cousin C. When C experienced some traumatic events in his early teens, instead of facing the hurt, he masked the pain with substance abuse. He spent his teen and young adult years in and out of jail on various charges, including armed robbery. Eventually the drugs he embraced took his life.

The world would not classify C as a good person. But to my siblings and I he was always the big brother who was never too busy to play hide and seek or build a snowman. We were well aware of the bad things he had done but we knew he was not a bad person. He was our big brother and friend.

It would be nice if people fit inside our mental check boxes of good, bad, neutral. But that's not the way the world works.

 “I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.”

People are flawed creatures. Inevitably they will let you down. There is evil in us all.

But there is also a great deal of good. And you can't ignore the good. Be wise, acknowledge the wrong. But keep looking for the's there somewhere. And when you find it, take heart. Relish that, no matter how dark, there is always a glimmer of goodness.

“As she welcomed him silently to the human race, the stab of discovery made her tremble a little.”
 ― Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman
Have you read Go Set a Watchman? I would love to hear your thoughts...especially if you disagree!


  1. BLESS YOU for this post. I read Go Set A Watchman and loved it. I think I identified a lot with Scout's place in life and I love the theme of having to break free from Atticus's conscience to form her own. Idealist that I am, though, I also think Atticus was not entirely transparent about his motives and, perhaps, isn't as strong a supporter of segregation as he seems...maybe he's just taking it slow and trying to ease the South into it slowly so as not to upset the peace he so loves. But that is me being optimistic. Still, I love what you said about flawed people still having good sides. Thanks for this. <3

    1. I love that about books...sometimes you just don't know what people's true motives and, when the author doesn't elaborate, the story ends are you are left with a shred of hope... "Maybe, just maybe?"

      Thanks for reading!

  2. thank youuu. I actually loved it. it was traumatic and I was in shambles, but it was so good. and I completely disagree with almost every review I've read on it. I know everyone reads a different book based on what they bring to it, but I feel like a lot of people are missing the point. not only did I love what it showed in regards to no one person being perfect, but also that huge, charged issues like racism weren't tidy with tidy answers. from our perspective, it's easy to feel very pious in our anti-racism sentiment, but I felt like the book showed that it was a very complicated issue. and possibly, people like Atticus could value the human race equally and still feel the mult-faceted weight of a changing culture and an overly involved government. BUT. I feel terrible saying that because I feel like I'll be crucified.

    1. Yes! That is a fabulous point I should have elaborated on. Atticus obviously had some pretty wrong thinking BUT how much was the result of him being a man trying to come to terms with a brave new world? Hindsight is always 20/20...if I had been raised in the same circumstances at Atticus...would I have supported segregation? I hope to God not. But it's impossible to know.

      AND I'm majorly relieved to know I wasn't the only one in emotional shambles. (WHY OH WHY???) I don't think I actually shed tears...but it was close.