Why I liked ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Emily Featherston, Editor-in-Chief

No matter where I was reading Harper Lee’s new novel, I was asked the same thing: “So, what do you think of it?”
I liked it.

Whenever I admit this to someone, I half expect him or her to report me to a librarian or throw a Pulitzer Prize at my head. Jarrod Taylor (Harper Art Department at HarperCollins)

No, it’s not on the same caliber as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and yes, it was mired in controversy before it ever hit shelves.

I liked it.

I like that it challenges the iconic world that Lee paints in “Mockingbird.”

I like that it adds complexity and controversy to the character of Atticus and the town of Maycomb.

When Jean Louise, “Scout,” returns to Maycomb as a young woman after living in New York, she confronts the changing race dynamics of the budding Civil Rights era.

Her father, who readers of ‘Mockingbird’ remember as the fair and balanced lawyer who sees past race and social class, publicly supports a racist agenda. Her town grumbles with the bigotry and dissent she has only seen from a distance in headlines, and her eyes are opened to the reality of returning to the South.

To many living in the South today, including myself, Jean Louise’s experience is not an unfamiliar one.

While progress has been made in the last 50 years, the Alabama painted in “Watchman” is quite similar to the one I see every day. I have felt the confusion of having people I care about speak in an insensitive and prejudiced way. To anyone who has felt like an outsider in a place they are fundamentally connected to, Lee’s novel strikes a personal chord.

The iconic world of “Mockingbird” is shattered for readers in much the same way Jean Louise’s world is shattered, and this made “Watchman” resonate in a way that a mere sequel to her award winning book would not have.

I liked this novel because I can understand the frame of mind of Jean Louise, and the frame of mind I think Lee wrote it in.

If you read “Watchman” expecting another Pulitzer Prize winning novel, you will be disappointed. However, if you read it from the perspective of a young person struggling through forming her own opinions and letting go of the icons of her childhood, you may like it too.

1 comment

  1. Susan Bechtel says:

    I liked it too for the same reasons. Scout dropping the scales from her eyes.

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