Every reader has her or his expectations when it comes to novels. Some expectations never change. Everybody wants a novel to be interesting, have a plot and maintain a flawless flow.
One writer has managed to keep the readers at bay, Haper Lee. Through her wonderful writing Lee has satisfied all the reader’s needs and desires, with one book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “Go Set a Watchman”’ is an example of a worthy novel.
“Watchman” has seven sections and nineteen chapters. There are three major characters, as in “Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch, his son Jem, and daughter, Joan, also known as Scout. Although “Watchman” is a prequel to “Mockingbird,” it’s best to read the latter book first.
In “Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch is a lawyer defending a Black man accused of raping a White woman. Atticus Finch became a role model for generations, both as a lawyer and a loving, principled father.
“Watchman” however delivers an unexpected twist when it reveals Atticus as a racist, behind closed doors. He is seen to use offensive racist words, such as Negroes, to refer to Black men. This was a side not seen by many, including the children.
In this “Watchman,” the children are all grown up. Jean, now 26 years old, takes a trip to visit her father. It is the first time she sees his true colors.
While talking to his daughter, Atticus uses the word Negro on more than one occasion to refer to Blacks. This causes immense pain and confusion to the daughter, as it tarnishes the image she had of him. It is also heart breaking, since she is having an affair, with Henry Clinton, who, as her father, tolerates racism.
Henry is more than an old childhood friend. He works with Atticus, as a lawyer. At one point, Jean and Henry go for a dip in the creek. This causes a lot of destabilization, due to the racial tension in Maycomb.
Although Henry loves Jean, she is uncertain of marriage to him. The visible divide between the Blacks and the Whites creates discomfort for Jean. The peacefulness and friendliness she once knew, as a child, is no more.
The two novels, “Mockingbird” and “Watchman,” have a few features in common. In addition to the same author, Harper Lee, the novels portray life in the years before the 1960s. Both novels allow insight into the racism in the American south.
Although the characters, in both novels, are also the same, they depict a different time in each character’s life. In “Mockingbird,” Jean is a young child and Atticus is a young family man. In “Watchman,” Atticus is an elderly man, of 72, and Jean in a young woman, of 26.
“Mockingbird” is in the first person. “Go Set a Watchman” is in the third person. In “Mockingbird,” it appears that Scout herself is the narrator. In “Watchman,” is done by third party
In “Go Set a Watchman,” Atticus is a racist lawyer. In “Mockingbird,” he was the role model for going against racism. Unlike “Mockingbird,” which emphasizes sympathy, ”Watchman” calls for understanding.
Anyone who has read “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be a tad bit confused when reading “Go Set a “Watchman.” This is largely due to the different characteristics the main character. Atticus Finch possesses. In one, he is role model, whereas, in the other, he is more of a disappointment.
Many may ask, “Why the change in Atticus’ character’?” The answer to this question vexes readers, yet keeps them wanting more. All these changes have resulted into what many may call a confused plot.
Overall, the “Go Set a Watchman” novel is a depiction of real life scenarios. In these volatile moments of violence, it shows just how far we still have to go.
Jane Doe writes from the American South East.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.