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‘Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth’

posted Nov 5, 2015, 9:39 AM by Unknown user
Photo credit John Gall, The New Yorker


If a reader was to open the book “Go Set a Watchman” expecting it to be better than or a sequel to Harper Lee’s previous publication, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, they would find themselves disappointed. Not only would they be disappointed, but they would miss the significance of the new novel by focusing, not on what it is, but what they want it to be.

Lee’s newest publication “Go Set A Watchman” was released July 14, 2015, but in fact was written in 1957 before she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

“Go Set a Watchman” is written in the point of view of Jean Louise, also known as Scout, at age 26 when she is returning home to Maycomb after being in New York for sometime. Lee’s editor at the time prompted her to revise and write the story from a young Scout’s perspective, advice that she took, thus giving us “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

While reading Lee’s new novel, I found that, as a high school student, I had to reread paragraphs and look up words so I could fully understand what was being said. After looking up definitions, though, I found an emotional revelation wrapped up in the current political debate of the time, civil rights.

“Go Set A Watchman” brings about not only the question of civil rights, but we also watch as Jean Louise’s world is turned upside down when the only man she trusted in her life, Atticus, essentially “betrays” her and Uncle Jack helps her come to terms with it. Toward the end of novel, Lee hints in the dialogue between Jean Louise, Uncle Jack, and Atticus that maybe there is more to the characters’ motives than Jean Louise is able to see because she is so rooted in her childhood that she is not capable, yet, of understanding the changes that have taken place while she was away.

By the end of the novel, Jean Louise has experienced what I would call an awakening. She is made aware of how much she was dependent on Atticus and she is forcibly cut off from him, therefore becoming her own person. I found this book made an impact on me because of the situation that Jean Louise is in. As a senior in high school, I am beginning to make my break from my parents just as Jean Louise is forced to do.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” set a high standard for Lee to live up to, which is why the novel has received the distorted reviews that it has. What future readers need to keep in mind is that this was Lee’s first attempt at writing a novel, and that this was written prior to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” so it will not coincide perfectly with the first published novel.  Despite the flak that it has received, “Go Set a Watchman” accurately describes how it feels when the ground falls out from under you. Lee is still, and should be, considered a great American author.
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