“Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee
8 out of 10
By Joseph Valencia ’17
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a beloved American novel by Harper Lee that set out to demonstrate a critical view of race relations in the south.
Many people are familiar with the book as a story involving a wrongfully accused African American man, Tom Robinson, who is killed for a crime he never committed.
More importantly, most readers remember Jean Louise Finch’s (Scout), the protagonist, father being a champion for racial equality.
Atticus Finch, a humble and wise lawyer, acted as Tom Robinson’s defense against an extremely racist community who wanted to see him hang for raping a white woman, a crime he is innocent of.
“Go Set a Watchman” takes the story in an entirely different direction and distorts many aspects of “To Kill a Mockingbird” that readers came to appreciate.
The story is set nearly two decades after the end of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with Scout having grown up and now living in New York City. She goes back home to Maycomb, Ala. to visit her family and friends.
In the previous novel, Scout was established to look at her father, Atticus, as a hero whom she wanted to emulate. This is the element of “Go Set a Watchman” that allows the novel to truly shine.
In a massive twist, Scout comes to discover that Atticus isn’t the hero she used to worship, and in fact is a man who reflects everything she hates. Atticus is revealed to be an opponent of the Civil Rights Movement who believes African Americans in the South aren’t yet ready to receive full rights.
The story really focuses on how Scout wrestles with this revelation, and how Atticus and his friends attempt to sway her toward their side of the argument.
My favorite aspect of this struggle is how Scout perceives her father. Atticus is transformed from Scout’s personal hero to a villain whom she resents intensely.
“Go Set a Watchman” is an excellent novel in its own right, but is made even better by how well it plays off Lee’s original story. It has minor flaws in how it fails to build on other characters such as Scout’s brother and the infamous Boo Radley, but its focus on Atticus is truly the best part of the book.