Go Set A Watchman — Harper Lee

First Quarter of the Book: (pages 1 – 70)

Go Set A Watchman (GSAW), generally accepted to be an early draft of Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is too analogous and yet too dissimilar to To Kill A Mockingbird.

The novel starts off with Jean Louise Finch, now 26, traveling back to Maycomb country from her home of New York.  Immediately, one is struck with the contrast of the quality of writing — while To Kill A Mockingbird was almost enjoyable to read, the sentences in Go Set A Watchman are rather utilitarian: “For another thing, flying home meant her father rising at three in the morning, driving a hundred miles to meet her in Mobile, and doing a full day’s work afterwards: he was seventy-two now and this was no longer fair” (3).  Disappointingly, most sentences in the novel follow this paradigm.

The story follows Jean Louise, grown yet no more mature, and her interactions with her elderly father, her boyfriend, (with whom her relationship is quite confusing), and Aunt Alexandra.  Jem is dead.  While it is interesting to contemplate what happens after the events of TKAM, this perspective is undeniably less intriguing, perhaps because there is no main conflict in the first quarter.  The only entertaining parts of the book have been: the skirmishes between Jean Louise and Alexandra such as, “‘Aunty,’ she said cordially, ‘ why don’t you go pee in your hat?'” (38); and the flashbacks to Scout’s youth, of which I hope there will be more.

The only good thing, other than the heated dialogue and the single flashback, is that the characters are well developed and realistic as of page 70:  Scout’s transition into Jean Louise is believable; Alexandra is still just as obnoxious as ever.  Indeed, the passage describing Alexandra hardly changes from GSAW to TKAM: “To all parties present and participating in the life of the county, however, Alexandra was the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was a disapprover; she was an incurable gossip. When Alexandra went to finishing school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its meaning; she was never bored, and given the slightest chance she would exercise her royal prerogative: she would arrange, advise, caution, and warn” (28).  This differs from the description in TKAM by only one phrase; everything else is word for word.  This overlap has occurred several times throughout the first seventy pages, and, frankly, I do not approve.

Last of all, the words in my edition of Go Set A Watchman are far too large, and the line spacing is equally frustrating.



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31 responses to “Go Set A Watchman — Harper Lee

  1. HeliaMegowan

    In response to Eric: I agree that the book is hard to get through; I found myself wanting to put it down and find something else to do. However, this is only the beginning of the novel, and perhaps the first seventy pages are simply Harper Lee getting warmed up. Her writing is still great – one of my favorite quotes was “She heard Calpurnia calling in the dim distance. She batted the gnatlike sound away from her ear” (64). The revival was one of the more interesting parts, and hopefully more flashbacks will be included later on. I also think there are a lot of dynamics between Henry and Jean Louise, and their interactions are compelling as well. However, I know what you mean when you say that some parts feel dry. Also, GSAW didn’t only overlap with TKAM when describing Aunt Alexandra – parts describing the history of Maycomb were exactly the same as well! How did the editor let this happen? Two different books and whole chunks could be interchanged. It makes me pretty angry as well.

    One of the main things I wonder about as I’m reading this is if Harper Lee really wanted this book to be published. I’ve read that she was reluctant about it and I’m confused about the whole process she went through to release it. I also wonder how the business of writing the two books went, and the whole history behind the original and the unusual sequel – after all, GSAW was written before TKAM.

    The characters in this have changed little; the biggest difference is that Jem has died. I was very sad to hear this and I’m unhappy about this development. Atticus is growing old, something that is hard for Jean Louise to deal with. He has bad arthritis and can do little by himself. Jean Louise herself has changed her name and no longer goes by Scout, which is understandable. She is just as ornery as always. The newest character, Henry Clinton, is my favorite because he has a determined way about him. I think he would be good for Jean Louise. I’m just worried her contrariness will keep her from being with him, or she will end up listening to Aunt Alexandra, who is just as concerned about history and background as always. She doesn’t like Henry, and tells Scout, “‘We Finches do not marry the children on rednecked white trash, which is exactly what Henry’s parents were when they were born and were all their lives’” (36). I got pretty irritated at Alexandra when I read this because Henry is so kind and tries his best and she puts him down because of something out of his control. I wonder where GSAW goes next!

  2. jamesliu928

    Responding to both Helia and Eric’s posts, I think we should not judge Go Set a Watchman based on our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, because though GSAW is a draft of TKAM, they are completely different books in my opinion. This novel explores more of the themes of change and marriage than the world of adults vs. children and it also has a completely different plot, so we should try not to let our thoughts of TKAM influence our reading of GSAW. Nonetheless, the image of Scout as a child still reappears in my mind as I read this novel, and it becomes especially difficult to understand the character of Jean Louise in GSAW when she and Henry uses terms of endearment to address each other and embrace in love. Children and romance are completely different so these scenes were rather distracting and kept me from reading the novel fluently.
    The plot, although saturated with long flashbacks, is actually pretty interesting to me. The heated arguement Jean Louis had with the austere Aunt Alexandra on marrying Henry is a pretty good indicator of a major conflict in the novel. An example of the friction between Jean Louise and Aunt Alexandra was when Aunt Alexandra “was completely unaware that with one twist of the tongue she could plunge Jean Louise into a moral turmoil by making her niece doubt her own motives and best intentions, by tweaking the protestant, philistine strings of Jean Louise’s conscience until they vibrated like a spectral zither” (Lee 28). This vivid description of Aunt Alexandra’s influence on Jean Louise’s life sets Alexandra up as an antagonist and hints of the future conflicts she and Jean Louise could have. Since the perspective is no longer in first-person, the novel does not develop characters through one person’s perspective. These elements of the novel make the book fairly entertaining and develop the characters extremely well.
    I agree with Helia when she stated that we only read the beginning of the novel and the conflict of the story could arise later in the novel. Though these two stories are similar and different at the same time, we should focus on the story of GSAW and try not to compare it as much to TKAM unless we are making important connections. This way we might be able enjoy the novel more.

  3. jamesliu928

    Sorry, I forgot to space my paragraphs out. The last paragraph starts with “I agree with Helia…

  4. matthewseeley29

    (I must start with a disclaimer, seeing that Eric read pages 1-70: I tried to convince myself to stop at page 70, failed dramatically, tried again to stop at page 80, again was unsuccessful, and ended up finally regaining control of myself at page 88. Thus, I have read slightly more than all of you. Just letting you know.)

    Responding to Eric and Helia’s point about the similarity of some passages, we must remember that GSAW was Harper Lee’s first draft of TKAM. I would assume that Lee wrote these sections, was impressed with her writing, and then, when she decided to focus more on Scout’s childhood, simply transferred the writing. Unfortunately, I recognized the similarities, so partially skipped over them, knowing that I had already read them in TKAM. It is a distinct possibility that I missed something important, but who knows.

    I also agree with Eric that there really are no conflicts in this section of the book. It seems that the main focus is describing the setting of Maycomb, and developing the characters. Now, we must take into account that, having read TKAM, it would seem that Lee is simply showing how the town and the characters have changed since the events of the earlier novel. However, GSAW was an initial draft of TKAM, and was written with no knowledge of the events of TKAM. A reader entering GSAW having not read TKAM would need this character and setting development. Even Harper Lee, writing the novel, would have no knowledge of TKAM’s events.

    Building off of that, I thought that Lee did a very good job at describing the setting of Maycomb (now in the 1950s) and adding depth to her characters. The description of the setting was so vivid that in my head, I initially imagined Atticus’ house differently from the house of TKAM—only to have it revealed that, as “A chapter of his life comes to a close, Atticus tears down the old house and builds a new one in a new section of town” (32). Either I am extremely perceptive, or Lee so accurately conveyed the setting that she changed the subconscious picture I held in my mind, without ever revealing that she had done so until 32 pages in. The differences in Lee’s writing style between the present (for the characters) and Jean Louise’s flashbacks were also stunning; you could tell that all of a sudden the perspective had changed, and as such, the way things were worded. Looking back upon the flashback now, I noticed that Lee never uses the phrase, “Scout said,” but always used “she” in place of Jean Louise’s childhood name. In this way, Lee stays in the third person narrative format, yet conveys a first person viewpoint—the way TKAM was written.

    Finally, in response to James’ argument that we should take GSAW and TKAM as separate novels: I disagree. I feel that, having read TKAM, it is easier to interpret the events of GSAW in contrast to those of Lee’s earlier book. GSAW, in giving greater insight to the future of TKAM’s characters and the town of Maycomb, is greatly augmented by the knowledge of TKAM that we possess. I was infuriated with Aunt Alexandra throughout TKAM, and GSAW has done nothing to change that—it has simply expanded the number of incidents that irk me. Thus, I am more aptly able to interpret the Alexandra of GSAW as the clear antagonist Lee intends her to be (due to my knowledge of TKAM), rather than having to rethink my view of her character.

    While the lack of stimulating plot detracts from the novel, Lee’s scintillating writing style makes up for it. I am intrigued to see what the conflict ends up being (if there is one…) and am excited to continue reading. Hopefully next time I will have more control over myself, and only read 5 more pages than I am supposed to… 🙂

  5. On the case of comparison between Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird, would have to agree with both James and Matthew. It would be inappropriate to criticize the writing style of GSAW in contrast to the style of TKAM. To Kill a Mockingbird is a tough act to follow. Yet, at the same time, Matthew is right, To Kill a Mockingbird allowed for valuable insights into these characters, even if the themes have changed.
    Despite what I said, I would like express my thoughts on some of the changes. It disappoints me that among other changes, Jem is dead, but I am also greatly heartened by the characters that retained their original personalities. For example, Aunt Alexandra is still her prim and arrogant self, if only slightly more cantankerous. One of the most drastic changes is the change in perspective. Go Set a Watchman is no longer written from the perspective of six year-old Scout, which greatly changes how the story is narrated. Gone is the childish and inquisitive voice of Scout, now replaced by a cold narrator. Yet, I found that one of the changes that annoyed me the most was the lack of Dill. Good old Charles Baker “Dill” Harris, whom Jean Louise was originally engaged to, is off in Italy. Also, there is absolutely no mention of Boo Radley. Despite the fact that it was stated that Boo was never seen again, I had hoped to hear some mention of the Radleys once more.
    I disagree with Eric and Matthew on the lack of conflict, as I would argue that the tension and friction between Aunt Alexandra is conflict enough. Though it lacks the emotional impact that came with the conflicts in TKAM, there are still plenty of arguments, now regarding Henry Clinton instead of proper attire. As usual, I feel Aunt Alexandra is being very unreasonable. It irked me that she was only able to see the aspect of Henry’s background. Like Helia mentioned earlier, during a discussion, she told Jean Louise “We Finches do not marry the children of rednecked white trash… Fine a boy as he is the trash won’t ever wash out of him” (36-37). Aunt Alexandra used to be rude, but this is outright unbearable. Even had Henry not been such a nice guy, it is absolutely despicable to use such derogatory remarks based off his background alone. This is another example where Aunt Alexandra is so caught up in her Southern, proper ideals, that she is unable to face the truth in changing times.
    Addressing Matthew’s argument of Lee’s “scintillating” writing style, I feel that that is not the case. I agree with Eric, some of Lee’s writing has become plain and lower quality. Part of what made “Mockingbird” so distinctive was Lee’s graceful, drily witty voice, at once childlike and knowing. Although this quality is not lost, it is much more scarce in Go Set a Watchman. This new blunt voice, is in sharp contrast against the well woven elements of To Kill a Mockingbird.
    Yet, I look forward in what is to happen later in the novel. I have heard some rumors, but just like with Boo Radley, they may not be true. 😆


    I typed this earlier and it wouldn’t post. AT the time this was posted, the above post did not exist. So please pretend that the following comments were posted before Matthew’s post.

    Apology/disclaimer: whenever I express my express opinions, as I do in the following post, people tend to be offended. I truly do not mean to make anyone upset or to come across as overly argumentative. I think the posts that other people have made were very thoughtful and well written, and respect everyone’s opinions. I am Sorry if anyone becomes at all offended at my writings; that is not the intended effect.

    I agree with the above post in some ways; GSAW is a first draft of TKAM which was extracted from Harper Lee after over half a century of demand, and so the two cannot be compared as equals. However, I think contrasting the two works by viewing them as the evolutionary process they are is beneficial. One cannot expect a first draft to be as good as a final product; that is the entire point or revision. I also believe it is more than reasonable for GSAW and TKAM to share lines; they are iterations of the same book. I understand why this might make some readers like Helia become upset, yet I believe it is more than appropriate, and given the circumstances, am quite surprised the drafts are as distinct as they are. In answer to Helia’s question of “how did the publisher let this happen,” the editor originally didn’t allow the bok to be published. People clamored for more. They hungered for scraps of insight into Lee’s reclusive mind. And eventually, once Harper Lee became old and tired, practically blind and deaf, she was finally coaxed into relenting. At that point, one cannot expect the editor to turn around and say “Sorry Lee, but your first draft had some good lines that you never felt the need to rewrite. I know we planned on publishing GSAW simply to give the public a hint about your unfiltered visions for the characters and the true messages you wished to convey, but those lines need to be changed. I need you to go ahead and revise this unrevised book, even though I could barely convince you to let me publish it as-is.” My point here is that GSAW is not meant to be a beloved piece of writing beautifully showing the maturation process; if you want one of those, go re-read TKAM. GSAW is meant to be a look into Harper Lee’s nitty-gritty, unrefined vision of Southern life. The world in the novels do differ significantly, even in terms of the characters (I read a bit about the book’s characters before I thought I was going to read it), and so the drafts can be compared, but only for what they are; an original copy and an edited one.
    In this light, I will continue to discuss the plot of the novel. I also agree with the two comments prior to this one; the Novel is just getting started and things are bound to climax eventually. I too found Jean Louise’s interactions with her Aunt interesting and was able to relate them to some similar experiences I have had with members of my own family. I also see an internal conflict within Jean Louise. Part of her enjoys “living in sin in New York,” yet at the same time she wishes for her childhood years living innocently in a small, simple town (48). This juxtaposition of an old and bland life with a wild and new one is illustrated when Jean Louise “did not wish particularly to rediscover the companions of her adolescence,” yet fondly recalls her childhood’s summers (33). I think this indecision is also represented through the relationship between Jean Louise and Henry. Henry is a part of Jean Louise’s past and childhood, and she believes she is too wild to be married, but ultimately does love him. I hope that this becomes a prominent conflict in the novel, since I believe it could lead to an interesting exploration of the aftermath of aging, and whether or not it leads to maturation. Third would nicely compliment TKAM’s themes of the aging process and how it matures a person.
    Finally, I would like to offer my observations about Lee’s writing style and quality. I too found the novel a little hard to get through. I also agree that at times the words were more of a mechanism than an artistic medium. Though there are times when this allows for the nice effect of the reader to getting lost in the sea of subjects and predicates and forget that the protagonist is still just sitting in a car dozing. I also found the word choice quite interesting; many of the vocabulary words from TKAM make their way into GSAW, even though some are applied to completely different scenarios. Some such words include “acquiescence,” “benign,” “predilection,” and more. This is a fascinating indication of how parts of the novel could have shifted over many revisions and how certain parts rumbled away until only the best words remained. So, although I prefer TKAM, I believe GSAW has excellent word choice.

    Also, in response to the top post, I think the spacing is great, since it leaves room for annotations, and I like the large font since it makes the text easy to read.

  7. jamesliu928

    Second Post:
    With the progression of the story, I am starting to see how a draft differs from a story. Although it is saturated with flashbacks that do an excellent job of characterization and explaining the background and relationships of all the characters, the story still doesn’t seem to have a fixed major conflict.
    In spite of that, the flashbacks of Jean Louise did provide a good insight on her life and the town of Maycomb. For example, when her friends misinformed her on how a woman gets pregnant, she believed them, even though Calpurnia disproved some of the rumors, and thought that she was pregnant. Following that notion, she started to live a life full of trepidation for the arrival of the baby, and even attempted to commit suicide. I have to say, I was laughing and thinking in my mind of how ignorant Jean Louise was to believe her friends on the false explanation of sex, but I realized that this flashback reveals some important things. First of all, most schools in the United States at that time probably did not have sex education, so children usually spread rumors to explain how a woman gets pregnant. Secondly, Jean Louise is starting to become absorbed in fitting in with others as she brushed away Cal’s explanation of menstruation as a lie and took in her friends’ description of “The Curse”. Lastly, I learned that Jean Louise is so desperate to avoid disgracing the Finch family name, thanks to Aunt Alexandra, that she attempted to commit suicide.
    On a side note, there was a place in the reading that confounded me and I still do not understand it was in the story. When Scout returned home from the ice cream shop, “She rose, smiled goodbye, and said she would be coming back soon. She made her way to the sidewalk. Two solid hours and I didn’t know where I was. I am so tired” (Lee 120). The abrupt change in perspective disappears a page later, but I am thoroughly confused as to why Harper Lee wrote like this. Can someone give me a possible explanation?
    Harper Lee also used Jean Louise’s discovery of Atticus’ racism to open up her myopic view of her father. While Jean Louise describes her father’s position in her life she explains, “ 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” (Lee 118). Atticus was the paragon of a righteous man up until this discovery. Now that she found out that he is racist, Jean Louise enters into a state of disillusionment as Atticus’ hitherto exalted character disappears. Jean Louise’s narrow view of her father is widened as she starts to understand her her complacence in the world of her home.
    In conclusion, Harper Lee’s use of events and flashbacks help develop characters in her novel, explain their relationship with others, and provide background information.

  8. In response to Sydney’s post, writing in books? Sacrilege.

    On topic, after having looked over the passage where the perspective changes, I still cannot explain the change of POV. The only reasonable explanation is that this wasn’t on purpose, and that it was a mistake on Harper Lee’s part — we have to remember that it was a draft and probably hadn’t undergone extensive editing. The quality of writing is somewhat low, especially compared to what I am currently reading (Frankenstein).
    I was also confused by Jean Louise attending Sunday School: in my experience, Sunday School is for children, especially ones in elementary school that do not want to attend the normal service — this is obviously not the situation in Maycomb at the time. Another difference between modern day and the 1930s/1950s is the portrayal of cigarettes: in GSAW, several characters smoke without a single mention of lung cancer(!).
    The one thing that I thought Harper Lee portrayed very well was the resistance to change characteristic to the South at this time. Not only did Jean Louise hate that the Landing was sold because she doesn’t like change, when the doxology was changed, she thought, “How dare he change it?” (96). This indignant resistance to change is shown also by the racist, Mr. O’Hanlon: “[he] had quit his job to devote his full time to the preservation of segregation” (108). That he would spend his whole life trying to prevent blacks from associating with whites is impressive, if morally repugnant. The reaction to change is correspondingly strong. When Scout realizes her father to be racist, she first goes through denial, anger, and depression. It took Jean Louise a while, just like in TKAM, to realize and accept that she was wrong, yet in both, she was bettered by this.
    Furthermore, I agree with James that the story still doesn’t have a central conflict. While Scout’s internal emotional struggles are somewhat interesting, I cannot imagine that the rest of the book will focus on this. If I had to make a guess to what the conflict will be, if one arises, is how Scout interacts with Henry after discovering that he is part of a racist organization. Will she try to change him, or will she murder him? (probably the latter).
    The most interesting part of reading GSAW, to me, is thinking about how Harper Lee developed GSAW into TKAM. Lee probably noticed that the flashbacks to Jean Louise’s childhood were the most interesting, and decided expand upon the trial that Atticus participated in. Lee obviously liked some of the characters also: she kept Aunt Alexandra exactly the same, kept the non-racist part of Atticus, and kept the idea of trash like William Willoughby through Bob Ewell.
    In conclusion, GSAW has a good portrayal of the 1930s and 1950s south, yet the quality of writing is low, and I’d like to have a central conflict.

  9. matthewseeley29

    I must agree with Eric. Writing in books is a desecration of their purity. Sorry, Sydney, I don’t mean to offend.

    And secondly, Eric, why did you have to post this from the Mountain Time Zone? From my point of view back in LO, you’ve travelled to the future; I was very confused for a couple seconds… 🙂

    Small talk aside, I will now turn to discussing the novel itself. I think that the unique point of view change was included by Lee for a reason, actually, even though it might seem like an editing error. In full, the passage reads, “She rose, smiled goodbye, and said she would be coming back soon. She made her way to the sidewalk. Two solid hours and I didn’t know where I was. I am so tired” (120). In fact, there is a tense change as well, from “was” to “am,” almost like we have entered into Jean Louise’s mind in this instant. And I believe that this was Lee’s intended effect – to show exactly what Jean Louise is thinking. If I was in this situation, I would probably think in the first person present tense. Almost everyone does. Thus, I believe these passages may be understood more clearly if we italicize the “Two solid hours and I didn’t know where I was. I am so tired.” Now, it is clear that these are Scout’s, not the omnipotent narrator’s, thoughts. Perhaps these italics should have been included somewhere throughout the editing process?

    I would also like to note what I believed to be the most important aspect of the novel: Atticus’ racism. Now, I had heard from outside sources that Atticus was a racist (in that wonderful publicity storm surrounding the release of the book- thank you, marketing folks who have no problem with SPOILING THE BOOK), but I had been unable to grasp the ramifications of this change. Frankly, I am repulsed by this new Atticus. Throughout TKAM, Atticus was always so kind, fair, and equal, it is almost like I have been lulled into a sense of placidity where Atticus is concerned. It is clear from the beginning of the book that Atticus has changed since the time of TKAM. His insistence on calling his sister “Zandra” irritates me tremendously, but seems to fit with his aging character, while his arthritis is an even more obvious trait. However, it had seemed that he was still the same person inside, the paragon of equality he always was. Looking back on the book now, he references the civil rights movement a couple of times, but doesn’t express his opinions on the topic. Thus, the revelation Jean Louise makes in the courthouse a shock to the reader as well as herself, as it tips her and our worlds on its axes. It begs the question, why would Atticus defend Tom Robinson in TKAM’s landmark case when he believes Tom to be of an inferior race (whoa that rhymes)? It may be noted that as Jean Louise listens to the racist Mr. O’Hanlon, she remembers what seems to be the very same case. One would assume she is thinking of the Tom Robinson case, as the defendant “had only one arm. The other was chopped off in a sawmill accident” (109). However, there are some blatant inaccuracies contained in Jean Louise’s recollection, which seem odd to those of us who have read TKAM. The defendant is remembered to be “fourteen years of age,” Atticus “could and did prove consent,” and he ends up taking advantage of “a careless indictment, [takes] his stand before a jury, and [accomplishes] what was never before or afterwards done in Maycomb County: he [wins] an acquittal from a colored boy on a rape charge” (all 109). Clearly this is not the case we remember from TKAM! Mayella Ewell was “nineteen-and-a-half” (TKAM 240), and Tom Robinson does not end up free – he ends up dead. Yet the description of the defendant is a spitting image of Tom Robinson! Curious, curious. It would seem, then, that Lee changed the outcome of the trial after writing GSAW. Maybe she, could not bear the thought of a racist Atticus, like myself. It is possible that maybe the Atticus we knew and loved from TKAM is the real Atticus, and this scandalous, racist Atticus of GSAW is simply a possibility; what he could become if the trial ended differently. We may never know….

    On another note, I am pleased to announce that I stopped myself from reading more than I was supposed to! Looking forward to the rest of the book! 🙂

  10. First off, congratulations Matthew! I didn’t think you could pull it off but you didn’t read ahead.
    Also, sorry Sidney, I would agree with Matthew and Eric, I personally feel it is almost disrespectful to write in books. Well, then again, I guess the irregular spacing seems to be asking for it.
    Anyways, I felt that this section really toyed with my beliefs that were established in TKAM. The whole changing of Atticus really irks me, as he was established as a guiding light who never faltered in his moral and ethical obligations. Yet, GSAW clearly established that Atticus was actually a racist. I had heard rumors about such an occurrence when the book was first published but it really shocked me after reading it. I can understand what Jean Louise is going through. Beforehand, he had been an avatar of integrity, no matter the circumstances and sacrifices. He was ready to allow his own son to be prosecuted in order to uphold justice. Now he is reading racist pamphlets and attending conventions for bigots. It doesn’t seem to be quite possible, as such a change is quite dramatic and shakes the very foundations of To Kill a Mockingbird. I am struggling to understand how a story about the discovery of evil views in a revered parent turned into a universal parable about the loss of innocence. But I have found that there are threads of similarity. The discovery of Atticus as a racist seems to lead to a discussion regarding the true face of Southern society, paralleling Jem’s discovery about society following the court case. In essence, this theme in GSAW is very similar to what occurred in TKAM, except Atticus was still venerated in the latter.
    Like Matthew, I noticed that there were discrepancies in the account of the trial. I am confused as to the purpose of these differences, as it is highly unlikely that it had been unintentional. However, it would be interesting to explore the possibility that this was how it had been written in the first draft, as it would have lead to very interesting implications. Particularly, it would make it seem even more implausible that Atticus would suddenly transform into a bigot. I am still hoping that maybe this is just an alternate reality and that the real Atticus Finch was truly saintly.
    Like Eric mentioned, the book’s major conflict so far is Jean Louise’s internal conflict regarding the changes in Maycomb society. I disagree on the fact that this could not be the topic of the whole book. Albeit fairly boring, this theme of change seems to be set up to hold true for the whole book. As far as I am concerned, I would argue that this book will centralize on the topic of dealing with change, specifically that of Maycomb and Jean Louise’s relatives.
    Having finished half the book, I am extremely intrigued as to how Jean Louise will deal with and hopefully overcome these shifts in her world. Now excuse me while I mourn the loss of a bigot named Atticus Finch. 😢 😦

  11. heliaballet

    In the second quarter of the book, many character flaws are laid out for everyone to see. News flash: Atticus and Henry are racist! This honestly is the last thing I would ever expect and I had to read the passage several times before I would believe my eyes. On confronting Jean Louise after she spies on their town meeting, Atticus and Henry explain why they need to take Calpurnia’s grandson’s court case:
    “‘Hank, I suspect when we know all the facts in the case the best that can be done for the boy is for him to plead guilty. Now, isn’t it better for us to stand up with him in court than to have him fall in the wrong hands?’ [At this point I thought they were talking about racist white lawyers who wouldn’t defend the boy guilty. I was sadly mistaken.]
    A smile spread slowly across Henry’s face. ‘I see what you mean, Mr. Finch.’
    ‘Well, I don’t,’ said Jean Louise. ‘What wrong hands?… You mean colored lawyers?’” (Lee 148-149).
    What is happening! Where has the Atticus we knew and trusted gone? On the next page, he goes on to say that Negroes are trying to get on juries and that they need to be kept in their place. What has Harper Lee done to our favorite father figure? I suppose she has turned him into a more normal Southern man, but it is such a disappointment after the ideal man she had him be in TKAM. By Scout’s reaction to both the meeting and this discussion, we see that she has not been poisoned as her loved ones were: she is still “color blind.”

    Another main part of this section was defined by the fact that Scout never had a mother to give her “the talk.” She has to wander along, unknowingly, gleaning bits and pieces from girls in the schoolyard until she is hopelessly misinformed. It goes so far that Scout thinks she is pregnant and Henry has to save her from jumping off the water tower. During this part of the book, I felt pretty sorry for Scout; doesn’t everyone know that sense of dread that comes over them when they think something awful or unexpected is going to happen? Harper Lee writes the flashback well, and I think it provides more insight into Scout childhood and what it was like living without a mother. TKAM managed to walk around that topic quite effectively (probably by making Atticus seem so great), and so I appreciate the fact that this is brought up once again. I think life would be pretty impossible to deal with without my mom, tbh.

  12. ericsnell1

    (Matthew and Chuck): I, too, noticed that the variation in the trials — however, I wasn’t especially confused about it. In the words of Sydney, “the drafts can be compared, but only for what they are; an original copy and an edited one” (Sydney Von Arx, November 10th at 10:09 A.M.). Nice Atticus ☺ and Racist Atticus ☹ can’t be compared — unlike Aunt Alexandra, they are two completely different people, both being well respected and named Atticus, but one being racist. Nice Atticus ☺, in TKAM, was never racist and never will become racist — which is why he defended Tom.

    Furthermore, although GSAW takes place twenty years after TKAM, the events of TKAM didn’t take place before GSAW, and GSAW doesn’t happen after the events of TKAM conclude. Keeping this in mind, Jean Louise is not thinking of Tom’s case, because that case never happened. She is thinking of a completely different case, one that Harper Lee would later develop into Tom Robinson’s case.

    Harper Lee obviously liked some of the parts of the trial — she kept some of them very similar throughout the process of writing TKAM — but when she decided that the book would be better with Nice Atticus ☺, she had to change the outcome of the trial somewhat. She decided, apparently, to change minor details such as the circumstances of the alleged crime and minor details about Tom, in favor of keeping the one-armed black guy allegedly raping a white girl and Atticus standing up for his values (but getting a verdict he didn’t want).

    (Matthew): Sorry that I messed you up by time traveling back an hour and writing my post before your post.

    (Helia): Given that GSAW was written before TKAM, Harper Lee didn’t change Atticus for the worse. Instead, Lee changed Atticus from Racist Atticus ☹ into Nice Atticus ☺.

    On a unrelated sidenote,
    70 pages = one quarter of the book,
    140 pages = one half of the book,
    149 pages > than one half of the book,
    you read more than one half of the book.


    Why would I waste my time with writing an accurate description of this image, when instead I can write a long but useless one?

  13. sydneyvonarx

    Before I actually delve into the novel, I’d like to say a few things. First of all, if anyone wishes to debate the ethics of marginalia, I would love to do so during break before English class. However no matter what your opinion of it is, as long as the reader owns the book they have a right to do whatever they want with it, even if that means tearing it apart to create something like this:http://pinewooddesign.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Guy-Laramee-Book-Carvings-14.jpg). Also, on a related issue, two of you said “writing in books” is wrong. So I am very sorry to inform you that nearly every book has writing in it. Anyways, I am very sorry that this is being posted late; I was under the impression that each new section of the book should be under a different post, so I did not write a comment.

    Moving onto my response, I agree with the above post saying that just because a character is one way in GSAW does not mean that character has any similarities to a character of the same name in TKAM. However, I do think that, as others have said, if two characters differ it shows a deliberate choice made by Harper Lee (or her editor) to change the meaning of the story. I actually prefer her original vision in GSAW to that of TKAM. While I agree with others that the writing style is less elegant, I find the characters much more interesting and the plot much more meaningful. I think making Atticus racist gives the character depth. Instead of just being some unrealistic totally flawless unrelatable angel, Atticus does something Jean Louise considers morally wrong. I agree with others that this makes the character more flawed, but that does not mean the book is more flawed. Atticus’s apparent hamartia shows that simply living by one’s morals and doing what one feels is right is not enough. Atticus genuinely seems to think he is a good person, and in most respects he is. He always follows his values; he simply does not see racism as going against these. Morality is a completely subjective matter, and one really can’t call someone evil simply because of their opinions*. Rather, a person’s intent is more important. Atticus is still willing to fight for equality when it does conflict with his values, such as during the trial of the crippled man. He defended an Africain American and risked his reputation because he believes in justice. Since Atticus’s intentions are clearly good, I disagree with Eric when he labels the GSAW Atticus as “racist” and the TKAM Atticus as “kind”. I believe that a central message of GSAW is that BOTH Atticuses (or is it Attici?) could be kind and racist. Nowhere in TKAM does Atticus explicitly state that he believes all people are equal. In his most notable statement defending Africain Americans, he compares them to helpless birds (as some criticisms have pointed out). Just as Jean Louise remains ignorant of her father’s racism his entire life, I believe a reader could have easily not noticed racism in Atticus.

    The reason Atticus’s morals appear so misguided is because he has never given them much thought. GSAW says Atticus lives by biblical values, instead of values he himself selects. This is because Atticus has spent his entire life living in the Deep South. He has always been told that African Americans are lesser, and so that is what he believes. In order to gain a more qualifying sense of morality, Atticus must observe and embrace other cultures and experience more change and diversity in his life. Because growing up Jean Louise was raised partially by Calpurnia, she was able to see Calpurnia’s African American culture from an early age when she had not developed biasses. Moving to New York further broadened her horizons. In New York’s conglomeration of cultures, she is also able to learn about other views in the world and develop her own ideas. The most important thing, however, for developing one’s own morals is independence. Jean Louise is an independent person who has never cared much about society’s opinion of her. Because of this she has dared to question and contradict the moral and ethical values society has impressed upon her.

    Another reason I like GSAW’s deviations from TKAM is because Atticus wins the trial. To me, this showed that the lines between good and bad are very gray, as opposed to in TKAM where there are clear good and bad people. The two Atticuses are almost the same in TKAM and GSAW, with the only real difference thus far being that one of them is a confirmed racist (GSAW’s Atticus is also older, but not in the flashback I’m about to refer to). Maycomb also seems fairly unchanged. Yet in GSAW Atticus wins the trial, and in TKAM he loses. This shows that oftentimes having better morals or being a better person will not yield the same results as being completely moral all of the time. People considered to be bad are still capable of doing good things, and these actions should not make that person better of worse. This presents the fascinating idea that intent is less important than outcome.

    Others have complained that the novel seems to have no fascinating central conflict. In my opinion, Jean Louise’s entrapment between the worlds of modern New York and traditional Maycomb provides a fascinating conflict. The way New York and Maycomb lifestyles seem to collide and tear each other apart provides fascinating philosophical issues like the one I have discussed in the paragraphs above, which I absolutely love contemplating.
    I am looking forward to continuing this novel and seeing how Harper Lee manages to show me alternate views of society.

    *This does not mean that certain opinions aren’t wrong when weighed based upon conventional methods which ensure the benefit of humanity, such as how detrimental they are to society.

  14. HeliaMegowan

    Thank you for that sweet message Eric. I’m sorry you can’t read as fast as I can. Also, I like your cartoon a lot.

    In my opinion, this quarter of the book really highlights Jean Louise’s strong character, even if it’s unintentional. She feels overwhelmed, confused, and hurt by the betrayal of Atticus and Henry. I feel just the same way and found myself nodding along as I read her train of thought. She describes living with black people to one of the “magpies”: “You work with them, eat by and with them, ride the buses with them, and you aren’t aware of them unless you want to be.” To which the woman replies, “You must be blind or something.” (Lee 181). This really shows how different Jean Louise is from the Maycomb residents. Living in New York has made her perspective on living with black people different from the common vision of the South. It saddens me that she seems to be the only one able to think like this, although I suppose that’s what caused the whole Civil Rights Act and unfair repression of African Americans.

    The way the conversations held by the women of Maycomb are represented was very interesting to me; just fragments heard here and there. I think that’s very similar to how it is in real life. I enjoyed reading it but wondered how Harper Lee wrote it – do you think she wrote out full sentences and then chopped them apart, or simply wrote the paragraphs in pieces?

    Next, Jean Louise visits Uncle Jack in hopes of an explanation as to why her world has changed. She thinks that maybe she is the one who has “lost her mind”, and in a way I agree with her. I think that by living in the North, in a place where blacks are treated equally, she is more sensitive to the prejudice in the South. Although tensions have obviously increased, Scout is the one that grown and matured. However, I was disappointed by Uncle Jack’s response to his niece’s questions. Much like Atticus avoided Scout’s questions about Hitler, Uncle Jack is “woolgathering” and refusing to answer Jean Louise. Instead of really giving her the information she needs to understand what has happened to the people of her childhood, he cloaks his statements with a history lesson and leaves her to fend for himself. However, there is foreshadowing present when Uncle Jack wrings his hands and picks up his phone once Scout leaves. I wonder what his agenda is…..

    On a side note, did anyone else think it was funny how big of a deal the school dance was, how beautiful the school looked, how everyone actually like, danced with each other? At our school I feel like the dances are kind of a joke and people care more what goes along with them (parties, drama, etc).

  15. jamesliu928

    Responding to Helia’s question on the way the womens’ conversations were written by Harper Lee, I think she wrote it as pieces because it seems like she connected related but random thoughts together. Like Helia said, this use of ellipses emulates an indifferent person listening to boring conversations. Also, the sudden cut-offs and abrupt introductions to new topics accurately depict Jean-Louise zoning-out and paying attention like we do when we listen to boring lectures in our classes. These details add great detail into the novel and give the mood of the situation. It also informs me that I don’t have to read very thoroughly through that particular section, since the narrator is just as bored as I am 🙂
    I felt like Jean-Louise is still really naive and slightly ignorant because she just discovered the pervasiveness of racism in her community at the age of 26. Through the many years of living with her father in her hometown, she was unable to realize the racism in her community. My opinion is based on the assumption that Atticus was racist all throughout Jean-Louise’s childhood. Also, I agree with Eric that the two books are not “built” upon each other but are separate drafts so we cannot determine if Atticus was racist in GSAW through TKAM.
    On the topic of Jean-Louise’s character, she strongly opposes change which is supported by the fact that she was relieved to see a grocery store that was around during her childhood. After learning that Atticus is racist, she states, “This is one good thing about life that never changes, she thought. As long as he lived, as long as she returned, Mr. Fred would be here with his… Simple welcome” (Lee 152). I think this was brought up by Eric during the first blog post but I feel like there is enough evidence to support it now. Clearly, Jean-Louise didn’t pay much attention to her surroundings before leaving for New York City. She was blindfolded to the point where she only had a myopic understanding of her father and didn’t know the other side of him. That is why every change in Maycomb was a major blow to her.
    Following Helia’s comment on the passive Uncle Jack, something he said piqued my interest. Responding to Jean-Louise yelling at him to answer her question,Uncle Jack explains, “Jean-Louise, when man’s looking down the double barrel of a shotgun, he picks up the first weapon he can find to defend himself, be it a stone or a stick of stovewood or a citizens’ council”(Lee 200). The shotgun can be represented as the country’s change in the Civil Rights Movement and the man is the Racist individuals of the South. Jean-Louise seems to be antagonized by Uncle Jack as the shotgun and his answers suggest that he is racist and supports Southern view.
    In conclusion, the whole change in Maycomb that is perceived by Jean-Louise is just her ignorance towards Maycomb and the others around her before she left for NYC.

  16. matthewseeley29

    Happy to hear that you think our school dances are jokes, Helia… 😉

    I would first like to address Harper Lee’s use of fragmented sentences when portraying the conversations of the ladies. I personally think that Lee wrote out the fragments as entire sentences first, then removed either the beginnings, the ends, or both to form the fragments present in the literature. I do not think that a writer could come up with that many fragments of sentences without forming complete ideas first. For example, one of the Light Brigade sentences reads, “…kidneys, but Allen took me off fried things…” (169). As a fragment, I actually did not understand this idea. I assumed that something went wrong medically with this woman’s kidneys, and her husband told her to stop eating fried things? However, it would be much easier to understand if one had the whole sentence. Now, I know I am not as good a writer as Harper Lee, but I would personally be unable to make up that fragment without an entire idea written first. Regardless of all that, I agree with James and Helia that it accurately portrays one’s perception of utterly boring conversation, especially when many people are talking at once.

    Uncle Jack, while not boring, per se, managed to quite thoroughly confuse me. I understood the historical references faster than Jean Louise did, but some of Dr. Finch’s connections left me confounded. He is unable to give her a straight answer as to the proliferation of racism in the South, other than the fact that the white men are still acting as individuals, protecting their rights as they had during the civil war. Then he makes Jean Louise look in a mirror, tells her that he sees two people, then does not explain who those people are! It is almost as if Jack is testing her, seeing if she herself can figure out the answers to her own question. But by about halfway through this interrogation, why can he not see that she does not understand? The only assumption I partially made is that, since Jack states that “what was incidental to the issue in our War Between the States is incidental to the issue in the war we’re in now, and i incidental to the issue in your own private war” (201). So maybe, Jean Louise yearns to be an individual such as the Southern soldiers of the war, but also has been taught the equality and communal society of the North. It is almost as if she is caught between North and South… but of course Jack does not say anything of this sort, instead simply rambling on about how people are related to each other. Sigh.

    James, that quote piqued my interest as well, simply because it was one I could understand. In my opinion, the shotgun does indeed represent the Civil Rights movement, or in a sense, any threat to the white-supremicist society present in the South at this time. The panicking white men, as Jack puts it, “picks up the first weapon he can find to defend himself, be it a stone or a stick of stove wood or a citizens’ council” (200). Jean Louise counters with “That is no answer!” (200), but actually, out of all of Uncle Jack’s ramblings, this quote explains the most about the racism in the South. The white man, “proud” and “sort of stubborn” (195), faces a threat to his dominance over the other races. So what does he do? He protects himself, by doing anything in his power to beat down the threat. He forms citizens’ councils, which support segregation and greater power to whites, he promotes the spread of racist ideology, and he takes away basic rights from the black people. He cannot grasp the concept of black equality, so does not allow it to take place. For once, Uncle Jack makes sense.

    I was once again successful in my goal of not reading ahead. My confidence is building (which everyone knows I need more of :)).

  17. Since we have been studying writer’s craft, I think this passage effectively captures the usage of tone.
    On any other day she would have stood barefoot on the wet grass listening to the mockingbirds’ early service; she would have pondered over the meaningless of silent, austere beauty renewing itself with every sunrise and going ungazed at by half the world. She would have walked beneath yellow-ringed pines rising to a brilliant eastern sky, and her senses would have succumbed to the joy of the morning. (142).
    Not only does her language effectively capture the tone of the writing, but after our discussions regarding the degradation of Lee’s writing, that passage establishes that Harper Lee’s graceful voice is not dead.
    This section of the book had so much more first-person content. Throughout this section, Harper Lee expresses Jean Louise’s feelings through a first-person point of view rather than the third-person perspective used everywhere else. Personally, I enjoy this change in view as it allows for a touch similar to that of TKAM, if only for snippets throughout.
    It was also very interesting when Atticus called Jean Louise her childhood name, Scout. Right after the start of the second half of the book, Atticus uses the name Scout multiple times, much to the shock of Jean Louise. I can imagine the emotional trauma Scout, excuse me, Jean Louise, goes through when Atticus, who had remained an unmoving pillar of morals, crumbles, and then acts as if nothing had happened. To be called by her childhood name must have brought back intense flashbacks involving the Nice Atticus ☺.
    Uncle Jack is confusing. Like most of you have already touched on, he is not willing to give Jean Louise a straightforward answer. Ultimately, my takeaway is that Uncle Jack has also been established into the white patriarchy and begins to feel threatened by Jean Louise and her Northern ideals.
    My conclusion for this section is that it seems that Jean Louise is truly colorblind, there is no better way to describe her undiscriminating attitude inherited from Nice Atticus ☺.

  18. ericsnell1

    After reading this quarter of the book, I do find the central conflict more interesting, though still slightly lacking.

    I, too, thought the conversation was well written. It was very interesting to piece together what the conversation was about. As to the quote that Matthew interpreted, “John says . . . Calvin says it’s the . . . kidneys, but Allen took me off fried things”, I took it more as someone relating the different conclusions doctors, (or anybody), had come to, so I filled in: “John says it is (insert disease or affliction), and Calvin says it’s the (insert kidney part) in my kidneys but Allen took me off fried things”. These parts may be completely separate, but it was still interesting to see how they might connect.

    I was particularly interested in the dialogue between Jean Louise and Sarah Finley. Jean Louise relates to us that, “Sarah and Jane What-Was-Her-Last-Name were once inseparable” but Sarah explains: “Oh her… she got married to a right peculiar boy… [and] she went to Washington during the war and got this hideous accent” (170). I felt that by saying “oh her”, Sarah expressed mild distaste for Jane, but the only explanation for this falling-out presented is that she married someone different and she had a different accent. This made me think more about how ‘the ladies’ might feel about Jean Louise. After all, she probably has one of those New Yorker accents and is probably seen as odd for living in New York rather than Maycomb.

    I found it interesting how, when Mr. Healy died, the only thing mentioned about him was that he drank a lot. Either this alcoholism will come into play in the trial (foreshadowing?), or (more likely) the people of Maycomb tend to simplify others. Of course it might be that nobody knew Mr. Healy that well, but Maycomb is really small. This simplification has occurred throughout both TKAM and GSAW — Scout and Jem simplify Boo Radley, Atticus is viewed simply as a respectable man, Tom is viewed simply as a black man — and I think this is a good representation of society. Just like Boo is weird, Atticus is respectable, and Tom is nice, we categorize people as dumb, athletic, nerdy, or nice.

    As I was reading Alexandra’s comments about Jean Louise visiting Calpurnia, I made a connection to Social Studies. Alexandra relates to Jean Louise, “Jean Louise, nobody in Maycomb goes to see Negroes any more, not after what they’re been doing to us. Besides being shiftless now they look at you sometimes with open insolence… we’ve been good to ’em, we’ve bailed ’em out of jail and out of debt since the beginning of time, we’ve made work for ’em when there was no work, we’ve encouraged them to better themselves” (166). Paternalism! Just like the imperialist Western European countries, Alexandra believes that black people need whites to take care of them. Both white southerners and imperial countries take on a nuanced view of white control: “We provide for their needs, and give them jobs! We take care of these black people! We are super nice and thus superior. Who cares about rights or equality? Who cares that we are exploiting them?” The idea that whites have had a positive effect on blacks, especially the ‘making work for them’ all seemed very interesting to me. How could anybody believe that slavery, or even sharecropping, was great because it provided work for blacks?

    I’d like to add that the racist attitudes displayed by Atticus and Henry and Alexandra and basically everybody probably existed all along. However, we cannot fault Jean Louise for not noticing this. As Uncle Jack explains, when Jean Louise was younger there was no need to be racist, because blacks largely stayed away from whites. However, now, with the civil rights movement, there’s pressure to change southern ways. This opposition to the southern way of life causes many people, such as Atticus, to try to prevent this change through racism, and Jean Louise notices this.

    Lastly, I completely agree with Matthew’s interpretation of Uncle Jack’s quote, so I see no need to add on.

  19. sydneyvonarx

    As usual a few side notes before my real response. I made a blog post about the second half of the book. I made if after all of the other part 2 posts, but before anybody had blogged about part 3 (after Eric and before Helia). As of writing this the post says “your comment is awaiting moderation,” and will not appear when I’m signed out. I emailed it to everyone’s school emails, so if you’d like to read it and respond to it then please check there. Also, responding to how Helia mentioned how different the school was, did anybody notice that the high school had recess?

    Anyways, I absolutely agree with the above post the theme of oversimplification. I think everyone in Maycomb sees the world as completely divided into right and wrong. This tendency to simplify plagues everyone in the society; it makes Atticus Racist, Uncle Jack so fanatic about history, Alexandra so appalled by Jean Louise, and, most importantly, makes Jean Louise have extreme relationships with others. First, Jean Louise naively assumes nobody is ever racist, even still making this assumption about Jack after she had seen how wrong this assumption was about everybody else. She assumes people like Atticus are perfect deities, not faulty humans. When she finally learns people are racist, her opinion flips to the opposite end of the spectrum. She cannot see something as part wrong and part right; everything is completely black and white, with no shades in between. Perhaps the line “she was born colorblind” is meant to imply this as part of a double meaning.

    Moving on, I, too agree with Matthew’s interpretation of some of what Jack said, but not anyone’s analysis of Uncle Jack’s larger answer. While It may have seemed like Jack was simply avoiding answering a question, I think he was answering as best he could and Jean Louise was just refusing to accept it. From what we know of the character he is always difficult to understand and always uses obscure Victorian-era references. Jack gave a complex answer to Jean Louise’s question because it was a complex question and he thinks in complex ways. When he talks about the civil war and connects it to the industrial revolution, I think he is paralleling the increase in machinery to the increase in acceptance. One major effect of the industrial revolution was that it wiped out an entire lifestyle (a lifestyle Jack was particularly fond of), even if it was an overall net gain for the world. In the same way, Jack sees the civil war as a war not just for freedom, but for the decimation of an entire way of life. He is trying to explain to Jean Louise that Segregation and Southern life are so intertwined that to destroy one is to destroy the other. Everyone in the South is related, like Jack says, and so they are held together like a web. They feel they must unite to protect their lifestyle. This defense is what I think is being referred to when Jack says a threatened person “picks up the first weapon he can find to defend himself, be it a stone or a stick of stovewood or a citizens’ council” (200). In this way, I think Jack means that it is the Southerner’s lifestyle that is being threatened, of which segregation is a byproduct. That is why he parallels the conflict to the two versions of Jean Louise. Just as Jean Louise is struggling with being a liberal in New York or maintaining her Southern lifestyle, Alabama is refusing to be liberal in order to keep their lifestyle the same.

    One interesting thing I saw in the novel was that New York seemed to be full of its own biases and issues, which may further distance it from the South. Internal dialogue revealed some judgments from New York which Jean Louise feels the burden of. New York says to her “You, Jean Louise Finch, are not reacting according to our doctrines regarding your kind, therefore you do not exist … conduct yourself within the rules that those who know have laid down for your behavior, and don’t try to be anything else,” (178). Jean Louise tries to defend herself and her Southern family by saying family taught her “everything .. about human decency,” while she “didn’t know what hate was until” she lived in New York “and saw hate everyday,” (178). In my opinion, Jean Louise is able to finally notice the prevalent racism and despise racist people because of the hatred New York taught her. She learned to think for herself and be suspicious of others, and these traits have revealed the truth about her home. Yet her ignorance was blissful and comforting, and now she has been stripped of her family and happy childhood. New York judges her for her past and confines her just as much as Maycomb, albeit in opposite ways. Jean Louise is stuck between two opposing, extreme forces, and hence is finally able to see the rampant flaws in both societies

  20. HeliaMegowan

    Yay! I’m the first one to finish the book!

    This book went out with a bang – lots of fighting, yelling, and even some violence. But let me begin with my thoughts on Jean Louise’s arguments to both her father and Henry.

    With Henry, I think what she said about him was true – that he always was following along with what everyone thought and said, never being his own man. But what Henry said had some truth to it as well – if he didn’t conform, he would be thrown out and isolated because he isn’t from an old, well-bred family like Scout. However, I did agree with Dr. Finch when he told Scout she would eventually have to “let him down easy.” Although I was disappointed because Scout and Henry really did like each other, we can all agree that them splitting up would be for the best. They are simply to different to function properly around each other.

    Scout’s conversation with Atticus simply infuriated me. She tries to tell him her feelings and thoughts on the subject of civil rights, and I completely agree with everything she says. However, Atticus (much as Uncle Jack does later) undermines everything she says, putting it off to the side as if it didn’t matter and as if she were wrong. Honestly, the book left me a little confused on where the two brothers stood on blacks and their rights. Were they actually racist or just pretending to be (as Henry alludes to) or neither or both? I also wish that Scout hadn’t backed down and instead gotten the hell out of Maycomb while she could.

    Finally, Uncle Jack was in love with Scout’s mom? What was that about? That whole situation was really unclear to me. I also really don’t think Uncle Jack should have hit Scout (and certainly not twice).

    More to follow about my feelings toward the book in the review. Have a nice day

    • jamesliu928

      I am going to focus my blog post on the last part of the novel because many interesting things happen there, like Helia said.
      Responding to helia’s earlier argument on the argument between Uncle Jack and Atticus, I think they were trying to teach her not to be a narrow-minded bigot, even though their beliefs may be immoral as they called African Americans a “set-back race”. It was an important revelation to her because throughout the novel most arguments arose from Jean-Louise having conflicting opinions with other people. She learns that it is important to acknowledge and accept others’ opinions. She states, “I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and were the thrust, together we make the think fly” (Lee 277). From this statement, she understands that there is an intrinsic interdependence between differing opinions and learns the lesson Uncle Jack teaches her.
      Additionally, at the end of the book “[Jean-Louise] went around the car, and as she slipped under the steering wheel, this time she was careful not to bump her head” (Lee 278). The symbolism here explains how Jean-Louise finally stops clashing with the norms of Maycomb by not bumping her head into the car. She accepts their views while still upholding her own.
      On a side note, I also thought it was kind of odd for Aunt Alexandra to call her niece lady-like. I interpreted that as Alexandra recognizing Jean-Louise as a strong female who upholds her own opinion when everyone seems to disagree with her. Are there any other thoughts about this?
      I disagree with Helia on the point that Uncle Jack should not have hit Jean-Louise because it was the only way that she could calm down and evaluate her own actions. If it weren’t for his two backhands, then Jean-Louise wouldn’t have learned the important lesson of being tolerant towards other people’s opinions.
      This book ended pretty strongly and it revealed that the central conflict was Jean-Louise dealing with racism in her family, like Eric said. I thought the book was boring at first but got better as it progressed.

  21. ericsnell1

    First of all, I must admit that the ending of the book was actually rather good. It was interesting, thought-provoking, and wrapped up the conflict relatively nicely. However, I found a typo 😦
    I agree with Helia that Henry’s explanation, (while Jean Louise is viewed as a Finch, Henry will always be Trash), to be truthful. It seems interesting to me that, although Henry has attached himself to a respectable man and has worked hard, he will always be viewed as trash — but it also seems to be true.
    However, I disagree with Helia about the argument between Atticus and Jean Louise. To me, it seemed that Atticus wasn’t disregarding and undermining what she said. Atticus was trying to explain to Jean Louise his reasons for going to the citizens council: that he was trying to defend the southern way of life from the supreme court (rather than find out who was in it, as Henry suggested). Atticus was trying to explain why he allowed Mr. O’Hanlon to speak at the citizen’s council. Atticus was trying to explain a lot of things to Scout, yet this was futile because of the warped view Jean Louise had of her father. Her father’s explanation only kicked in when Uncle Jack explained: “Good grief, baby, people don’t agree with the Klan, but they certainly don’t try to prevent them from putting’ on sheets and making fools of themselves in public” (267). Jean Louise realized that she was wrong about the council, and thought: “Oh God, what have I done?”(267).
    Another explanation that made a lot of sense was that Jean Louise had finally become her own person. Jean Louise had wanted to be exactly like her father all of her life, but she had to become ‘her own person’ when she decided she didn’t like what she had seen from Atticus.
    As for James’ post, I’d say that I agree that Atticus and Jack were trying to teach Jean Louise to be more accepting of others’ opinions, and I agree that it was necessary to slap Jean Louise. She was ignoring everything Uncle Jack said, and for Uncle Jack to employ physical violence was surprising enough for Jean Louise to come to her senses.
    I also agree with James on the symbolism of Jean Louise being careful not to bump her head. To elaborate on that, earlier in the book, Jean Louise was unfamiliar with cars, as she didn’t use a car in New York, causing her to bump her head. Similarly, in New York there weren’t any racist views, and she was surprised and hurt when she realized that some people she respected held those views. The symbolism of Jean Louise being careful not to hit her head, to me, meant that Jean Louise was going to be more conscious of differing opinions and views.
    Last of all, I’d like to add that I kind of respect Atticus. While he does view blacks as a ‘backwards race’, he stands up for what he believes in, and tries to be a good influence on Scout.

  22. Helia, it would be incorrect to say that you finished the book first, as I believe most of us (including me) had finished but just wanted to procrastinate. Grats, you posted first.
    The ending of Go Set a Watchman is chaotic to say the least. Ultimately, I believe that though Jean Louise did not come to embrace some of the aspect’s of Maycomb’s culture, she was able to familiarize herself with the parts she did not like. In addition, she was able to better understand the concepts of how one’s personal beliefs and opinions are integral to one’s identity.
    I mostly agree with Helia on Henry Clinton. He feels the need to conform, yet at times that need is vital to his reputation in society. However, I do not agree that the duo are incompatible. Despite their differences, I felt they could come together and as they say, “opposites attract.”
    I was very annoyed with Atticus’ opinions on African Americans. His comments depicting them as “backward” and unfit for society were in sharp contrast with his TKAM remarks depicting them as deserving of equal treatment. My earlier veneration for Atticus had been damaged when he had attended the council meeting but his conversation with Jean Louise stomped on that remaining respect and threw it into a river. But like Eric, some part of me is fishing for that respect as it was brave of Atticus to stand firm in his opinion like Jean Louise stood firm in hers.
    I also agree with James that the two backhands were necessary for Jean Louise to calm her down. She was so emotionally charged that had it not been for those two slaps in the face, she would have ran straight back to New York and never come back. While violent, it served as a mechanism for which she could slow down and hear Uncle Jack out.
    I am a bit unsatisfied with the ending of the novel. I felt that though it certainly got better like James described, the plot was a bit muddled and the writing style never fully improved. I felt that this book should not have been published as it was, depicted as a “prequel” and a “new book”. It would have been much better off had it been published as an academic piece for scholars and fans.

  23. matthewseeley29

    Chuck, you said that the ending of the book was chaotic? Clearly I have been on vacation for too long, because I reached the last page, realized it was the last page, thought to myself, “Wait, what just happened? Hang on, what? What? Ummmm… What?” I was as confused as Luke was when Vader told him he was his father (Sorry, I just saw “The Force Awakens,” so am kinda on a Star Wars kick at the moment). No joke, I had to go back and reread the ending, then read everyone’s comments, then read the ending again. However, I think I understand the ending slightly better now.

    First of all, I would discuss Atticus’ argument with Jean Louise, as it seemed to prove that Jean Louise isn’t as morally right as we all believe. Remember at the very beginning of Jean Louise’s confrontation with Atticus, when they discuss “the Supreme Court decision” (238)? I must admit, I read the entirety of this section incorrectly the first time, and only after some research was I able to accurately reflect on the opinions expressed. The case in question is Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case of 1954 in which it was ruled that the dictum of “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. As I said, I read this section entirely wrong, assuming that the case was Plessy v. Ferguson, in which “separate but equal” was found to be legal. Thus, when Jean Louise responds that she was “furious” (238) about the decision, I assumed she was angry that such segregation would be legal in the South, and such read the passage as Jean Louise v. Atticus, Anti-racist v. Pro-racist. But in fact, this is not the case! Jean Louise, voicing a viewpoint straight out of the 1850s, claims that the case violates the Tenth Amendment (which guarantees the rights of the people and the states). When Atticus remarks, “Sweet, you’re such a states’ rightist you make me a Roosevelt Liberal by comparison,” (240), he is absolutely correct. Both Atticus and Jean Louise both seem to be advocating for segregation! However, Jean Louise then turns right back around, and says that “they had to do it,” (241), and then tells Atticus that the country needs to give the Negroes a chance. But she follows that up, with agreeing with Atticus’ point that “the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why” (242). SHE DOESN’T THINK THEY SHOULD BE CITIZENS! WHAT IS GOING ON?!?! And then, to add insult to injury, she states “We’ve agreed that they’re illiterate, that they’re dirty and comical and shiftless and no good, they’re infants and they’re stupid, some of them” (251) but then continues with “but we haven’t agreed on one thing and we never will. You deny that they’re human” (251). When Atticus states, “You are inconsistent,” (243) he is absolutely right. Helia, you “completely agree with everything she says”? Maybe you should look again. This is probably one of the reasons I was so confused. However, it is clear that Atticus is more racist than his attendance of the citizens’ council had led us to believe, what with his talk of “backward” races whom are “still in their childhood as a people” (246). Clearly, Racist Atticus ☹ has won out in the Battle of Atticus’ Brain.

    I feel like that paragraph was entirely summary. So here you go, a fresh load of piping-hot analysis:

    Helia, you voiced the opinion that Atticus was “undermining” everything Scout said, while Eric remarked that Atticus was just trying to explain his views. I agree with both of you. It seemed to me that Atticus was trying to persuade Jean Louise that he was in the right, what with his talk of how inferior blacks are, and his claim of “only trying to tell some plain truths” (243). To change someone’s mind, you must change their views on an issue, usually by showing them why their views are incorrect. Is that not the same thing as undermining their points?

    I agree with all of you that Uncle Jack’s slaps were entirely necessary, as Jean Louise would have driven all the way back to New York if nothing had been done. However, I disagree with his use of the statement, “Good grief, baby, people don’t agree with the Klan, but they certainly don’t try to prevent them from putting’ on sheets and making fools of themselves in public” (267). What Jack seems to be suggesting is that Atticus does not do anything to stop the racism rampant in the South, or even the citizens’ council, because he feels that it will die out eventually. He goes on to say that if the Klan ever began to hurt anyone, Atticus would be the first to stop them. This seems to convince Jean Louise that Atticus’ attendance at the citizens’ council meeting was actually not a show of his racist tendencies, and that maybe he is a good person after all. Um. “Jean Louise, they’re trying to wreck us” (247); “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia” (242); “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” (245). Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Atticus Finch, wrongly forgiven by Jean Louise, slave to Southern prejudice.

    Overall, I did not like this book. The conflict in beliefs between Atticus and Jean Louise was not resolved satisfactorily, and in my opinion was a weak conflict in the first place, while the theme of “finding oneself” was not developed well. I agree with Chuck that the plot was muddled, and thought that the character development could have been stronger. All in all, a letdown.

  24. heliaballet

    I agree with Chuck – maybe GSAW would have been better received if it hadn’t been advertised as the great prequel to the immortal TKAM and instead something that didn’t raise our expectations quite so high.

    I would give Go Set A Watchman a 6/10. I felt that although it was well written (the author is Harper Lee after all), the book lacked a plot and instead simply centered around flashbacks and the confusion inside Jean Louise’s head. I understand that the conflict was between Jean Louise’s morals and the ones she thinks her father and Henry have, but there was no climax that I could see. Was it when she got angry at Atticus? Or maybe when Uncle Jack hit her across the face? Neither of them seem quite fitting. It seemed that the majority of the time she was running around town thinking about the good old days and picking fights with her family members.

    Secondly, I agreed with Jean Louise on all of her principles, and yet for some reason Harper Lee chose to put her in the wrong with everyone. She is the only one who knows what is right and wrong – everyone else is either wishy-washy (like Uncle Jack) or apparently racist (like Atticus and Henry). I wish Atticus hadn’t turned racist in the first place!

    In conclusion, I think Go Set A Watchman is a book worth reading simply because To Kill A Mockingbird is such a classic and this is its sequel. I also believe that GSAW merits a reread, one perhaps not so shortly after reading TKAM. There were some good points to it (I did like the flashbacks because they added to the events in TKAM), but it lacked a real climax/conflict and I disagreed with many of the main characters.

  25. sydneyvonarx

    I go on the offense a bit in this post. Please do not be offended. I really do think everyone has brought up fascinating and well thought out points, even if I disagree with some of them. Also, there are a few sections of this that delve more into philosophy than literature, since I feel these sections are appropriate as they respond to opinions others have voiced in the above comments. I also firmly believe that the only academic value of non-expository literature is in providing a context and pretext to discuss larger issues and dilemmas (I expect this opinion to be highly controversial and am willing to debate it if anybody wants. Of course an impasse may be reached when the heart of the issue is reached. I believe words are entirely artificial systems and hence strewing them together is a completely arbitrary talent, which I value about as much as the ability to play tetris well).
    I agree with very little of what others have said. First and foremost, many people have said that they respect the firm stance Atticus holds on racial issues. I do not respect Atticus’s opinion. I believe that any disagreement is caused by either a logical fallacy or misconception on the part of at least one party, or a fundamental difference in values. While I can sometimes sympathise with people who hold illogical opinions, I do not respect said opinions if the person can only justify them with a fallacy. The only time where it is appropriate for such an opinion to be respected is if the pearson knows they are being illogical but chooses to ignore philosophical razors (although at this point the issue becomes a difference of values). Now where a true difference of values occurs, things become more complicated. I am going to present my opinions and basic reasoning, but I do not have enough space to fully explain the beautiful world of metaethics and value theory. Essentially, I value tolerance, and as such I am tolerant of other people’s value sets, even when they differ from my own. However there are some things I value more than tolerance, for example, the health of others. For this reason, I am not tolerant of those who believe in needlessly harming others. However someone who does not value exploration, a value which I rank below tolerance, I will tolerate. Equality is one such thing which I value above tolerance. For this reason I do not tolerate or respect anyone who believes peoples should be treated differently. Hence Atticus’s belief “that the majority of [African Americans] are backward” is not one that I tolerate or respect (242).
    Matthew seems to be the only one who really looked at what Jean Louise and Atticus said in their arguments. And he missed one major point. Allow me to break down the argument about Brown v Board of Education. Jean Louise and Atticus both agree that the court ruled wrong. However this says nothing about their personal beliefs. Both characters value justice and the law. There are many different ideas about how the constitution should be interpreted and what the roles of the supreme court are. Jean Louise is upset because the court rules in a way which exerts power over all of the states. She views the federal government as “mostly dreary hallways and waiting around,” and thinks that “the more we have, the longer we wait,” (240). She is also a supporter of the tenth amendment, which guarantees states certain rights. She is worried that there isn’t “much check on the court,” and that the Supreme Court is “canceling one whole amendment” (the tenth) by upholding a different amendment (the fourteenth). Jean Louise, like her father, values the legal system above equality. She is concerned that, in her mind, the court is using bureaucratic, unconstitutional, unfair, federal means to reach their verdict on the constitution. These views are views of how the constitution and government should reach a verdict, and not on the morality of said verdict. When Atticus brings up this point, he is trying to explain to Jean Louise that sometimes one must support a pro-segregation outcome even if one does not support the segregation (on a side note, this logic is wrong and I’m not trying to defend it. It is merely the logic Atticus used.)
    More interesting than his first point is the second point Atticus makes to Jean Louise. He explains to her the full consequences of equality. In this point he is half right, and this is the section where Jean Louise’s supposed support for equality can be brought into question. Atticus points out that true equality would lower the quality of formerly white schools. That equality means that while life for the minority improves, life for the majority worsens slightly (except for the benefits presented by an increase in diversity). He also point out that “there’d be negroes in every county office,” (243). If Jean Louise is against these ideas, Atticus points out that she too is actually for segregation. Atticus is correct about this, and only incorrect in assuming that these consequences are a negative. Jean Louise never fully refutes that these consequences are bad, and even agrees to Atticus’s paternalism, stating that African Americans are “backwards” and “grown children” (242, 252). Jean Louise merely wants African Americans to be treated as “human” but not necessarily as equal humans (251).
    Again unlike most of those who have commented above, I think it is totally unnecessary for Jack to slap Jean Louise. Violence is never a good solution to a nonviolent issue (which isn’t to imply that it is the solution to all violent situations, but rather to set this more complex topic aside). Hitting someone will not make that pearson more calm or rational, it will make that pearson further antagonize their attacker! If Uncle Jack does not hit Jean Louise she might go back to New York, but eventually she will calm down on her own. She will be able to calmly, rationally reflect on what had happened and come to her own conclusions. Instead she becomes inflated with adrenaline and anger like a giant balloon which Jack suddenly and violently pops when he shocks her with a slap. Instead of slowly letting her feelings deflate and be processed, Jack distracts her and makes her abruptly drop the issue for a moment, ultimately only making Jeran Louise more hurt both emotionally and physically. Beside slapping Jean Louise, Jack takes other irresponsible actions at the end of the book. Most importantly, he gets Jean Louise very drunk, then lets her drive! Admittedly drunk driving wasn’t as large of an issue at the time, but people back then still knew that drinking leads to impaired focus and coordination, and these things in turn lead to car crashes.
    I do definitely agree that the ending was unsatisfactory. I think the ending of the novel was trying to be this big mind-blowing, thought provoking revelation, but ended up a huge jumble. Jack’s mysterious message is clearly not supposed to be understood when first presented, but when I first read it some sections made perfect sense to me. The novel seemed to try to explain everything he said at the end but it did not make anything clearer to me than when I had first read it. Jean Louise’s sudden switch from totally appalled and never going to Maycomb again to planning to live there and keep the balance did not seem to have a satisfactory motivation.
    I also felt Henry was somewhat unnecessary, and in many ways he simply paralleled Atticus and hence added little to the novel. Jean Louise’s dilemma about whether or not to marry him was almost an afterthought at the end, and was settled by Jack more than Jean Louise.

  26. ericsnell1

    First of all, I’d like to add that while Atticus may have been racist, I respect him because his main goal was to protect what he thought were the rights of the south — saying racist things and making racist laws (under the first and tenth amendments, respectively).

    Sidney: If both Atticus and Jean Louise value the legal system over equality, then Atticus’ argument, that he should support a pro-segregation outcome because he believes it to be supported by the constitution, is not supposed to be logical — it is based on his values. And as you said yourself, it becomes more complicated here. Just like you value exploration less than tolerance, and equality more than tolerance, Atticus has his ranked values, and on top of all of it is justice. He believes that the pro-segregation outcome would be more just than the alternative: giving up the rights of states to make racist laws.

    Seeley: I didn’t even consider that Atticus was trying to change Jean Louise’s opinions. I viewed it more of as Atticus trying to explain himself, and thus he wasn’t trying to undermine her points in order to show his logical superiority.

    But anyway, I’d like to point out that although GSAW was originally promoted as a sequel to TKAM, it was in reality only a first draft — so Atticus doesn’t ‘turn racist’, because Nice Atticus 🙂 and Racist Atticus 😦 were not the same person, despite having lots of similarities.

    The actual review:

    Despite all that, I definitely agree that Go Set A Watchman wasn’t all that great. While it was somewhat entertaining, and somewhat enlightening, I’d have to go with Helia and give it a 6 out of 10. The plot was meh, the conflict was meh, and to me there was no ‘right side’. Jean Louise and Atticus had good points — even though both were racists.

    But while I liked Jean Louise’s righteousness and bravery, I still don’t think that the plot was especially engaging — the book just doesn’t make as much of a statement about racism, given that it presents both sides of the argument clearly and rationally (through Jean Louise and Atticus). I like TKAM more, because the message is very clear and very one-sided.

    I’d say the only thing I liked about this book was comparing it to TKAM and seeing how much it improved. And the other only thing I liked about it was the character development: the book, although not a sequel to TKAM, did a good job on elaborating on their characters.

    But despite all that, the book has some powerful statements about racism, relationships, and rights. While none of these statements are as cut and dry as ‘don’t shoot mockingbirds’, we can learn a lot from this first draft of TKAM — other than that first drafts aren’t nearly as good as final ones.

  27. This is my review for the novel:

    Go Set a Watchman

    This book, although boring and lacking a clear, central conflict at first, ends very strongly and ties up all the events that transpired throughout the story.
    In the beginning and middle sections of the story, the story did not really seem to move and the plot mainly stayed idle as the story was saturated with Jean-Louise’s flashbacks from her childhood. Other than building character in the novel, which was not necessary because reading To Kill a Mockingbird already gave me a pretty good idea of what the characters were like, the flashbacks did not serve any other purpose. It made the story drag on and often made the plot digress from the central conflict which was revealed in the end of the book.
    At the end though, there was a very clear ending where the elusive central conflict was brought out and resolved like a lightning bolt. The conclusion of the novel was also very fast-paced, contrary to the slow-moving plot earlier in the story, as major events happened right after each other. Also, Jean-Louise bumping her head while entering a car, a recurring image, ties into the resolution of the conflict too. This seemingly out of place image that shows up throughout the story is finally made clear at the last sentence of the novel. That symbol not only represents the main character’s acceptance of differing opinions, but it also connects the earlier events of the story to the conflict and adds cohesion to the plot.
    I would not recommend this novel for a whole class to read because in general, the events of this novel is a little messy and not all of it fitted together like the story of TKAM did. After all, this novel was a draft and was not written for publication, according to Harper Lee.

  28. matthewseeley29

    Sorry this comment is so late, but since I’m still posting before Chuck and Sidney, I’m still going to consider this a success. 🙂

    I would give Go Set a Watchman a 5/10. I understand that this may seem like a very low score, but it cannot be denied: I really did not like this book.

    It began reasonably enough, with a vibrant description of New Maycomb, and an introduction of all the old characters from TKAM. Jean Louise was there, Atticus, Alexandra, and this fascinating new character, Henry Clinton. Even Jem’s death and Dill’s exile were unable to shake the pleasure of the familiar sights and sounds of Maycomb. A warm, fuzzy feeling seemed to come over me, like I was arriving home from a long vacation…

    … And that’s when Harper Lee decided to burn my house down and stomp on the ashes.

    Throughout the book, the conflict was unclear. When it is finally revealed that Atticus (and Henry!) is a racist, Lee spends a long time depicting Scout’s moral dilemmas, and the confusion she feels, then decides to resolve this confusion with multiple long, complex lectures on politics (featuring new-and-definitely-not-improved Uncle Jack!). By the end of the book, Jean Louise has had a fight with Henry, a fight with Uncle Jack, multiple fights with Aunt Alexandra, and a fight with Atticus, and her record is approximately 1-5. So what does she do? She takes a baffling statement from Uncle Jack, somehow convinces herself that Atticus is really a good person after all, and then the book ends. Harper Lee, if I wanted a compelling conflict, I would have gone and watched a soccer game.

    Lee does a good job in shaping the personalities of her characters, now much older than they were in TKAM, I admit. But in the end, Henry does nothing but provide awkward, unnecessary drama, Atticus, Alexandra and Jack are simply infuriating, and Jean Louise herself seems unable to make up her mind about anything, except that she should hate her father. Until the end of the book, when she changes her mind once again. Sigh.

    I am very thankful that Lee did not publish this book first, as it is clearly inferior to TKAM. The lawyers and editors, in publishing this book, have simply tarnished the legacy of Harper Lee’s classic. The things people will do for money…

    While the book did not live up to expectations, I enjoyed blogging with all of you. Your opinions were thought-provoking and strong, even when my personal views contradicted yours. So thanks. You guys are great. 🙂

  29. sydneyvonarx

    I rate Go Set A Watchman at 6.5/10.

    The sudden revelation that Atticus and Henry are racist was an intriguing plot twist, and brought up great ethical questions about what makes a person good, or if a person can be good at all. Jean Louise’s repulsion and shock at her Father’s beliefs was a clever way to address the fallacies in idolization and when flaws become too monstrous to overlook. It was very interesting that Harper Lee never seems to bias the novel greatly in favor of one side of the characters argument or another, and this allows lovely food for thought on equality versus people and state’s freedoms. Still, the arguments were not made fairly; rather in one chapter racism would be ridiculed into oblivion by Jean Louise with no consideration of any counter arguments, and in the next section Atticus would make a pro-racist case which Jean Louise wouldn’t directly rebutt. I liked the ideas the book got at, but the actual ways in which such topics were approached felt forced and did not leave room for further discussion. Many times the message at the heart of a passage was needlessly obsurred by pointless references to victorian England and irrelevant excuses for miniscule details. I also feel that the flashbacks, while fun to read, were little more than filler. The flashbacks did not address Jean Louis’s views on race or her opinion of her father when she was a child, only her innocence, uniqueness, and imagination. Yet these topics were not revisited at the end of the novel, and never really went anywhere.
    The actual writing in GSAW was good but nothing extraordinary. Some of the descriptions (especially in the earlier half of the novel) were lengthy and bland, serving little purpose. Some passages, however, especially those concerning Jean Louise’s repulsion with Atticus’s racism, are written with passion and dynamic descriptions with a more lush vocabulary.
    My favorite thing about GSAW was that it showed that any fanatical obsession or strict adherence to a code comes at the cost of one’s inner sense or right and wrong. A fixed set of rules, such as Atticus’s moral code, will lead to archaic, close-minded thinking as society continues to evolve it’s perspectives. This is intresting idea is also shown when original amendments to the constitution are compared with the new amendment, and when Jean Louise bases her personal aspirations on Atticus. I see it as the novel’s central conflict and think that, unlike many other issues in the novel, it receives a full and thorough discussion. (I also like this idea because it shows why people should not base their values and ambitions on a 50 year old novel called To Kill A Mockingbird).

  30. Before I go into my review, I would like to state that my comment was originally posted on the 8th but never lost it’s “Your comment is awaiting moderation” label.
    Go Set a Watchman: Rating: 6/10
    Go Set a Watchman was an utter letdown. I had expected more of the wonderful plot and style that had made TKAM so great but what I got from GSAW was only vaguely reminiscent of her earlier writing. I use the term “vaguely” as there were some occasional places where her graceful voice shined through once more but these sections were not commonplace. As a result, I was greatly disappointed at the lack of the extraordinary writing present in TKAM.
    The first differences were evident at the novel’s beginning. While I was sad that Dill, Jem, and Boo Radley were not in the plot, I was intrigued by the addition of Henry Clinton. Not only had he never been mentioned in TKAM, but he was also supported by an unusual backstory. It was great to be once again graced by the presence of Atticus Finch, the famous paragon of integrity and justice.
    Of course there had to be the plot twist. The newest addition to the Maycomb story, Henry, and the almighty Atticus, are actually racist! Not only was this greatly upsetting, Harper Lee then proceeds to turn Jean Louise’s emotional struggle with this revelation into the book’s only major conflict. This internal conflict is stretched out to somehow last the entire length of the book with every character becoming caught up in her internal dilemma. Boring! The worst part is when the resolution finally arrives and it only occupies the span of a few pages.
    Actually, if I were to describe this book, “boring” would be the most effective to capture my emotions regarding GSAW. The plot moved forward at an almost unbearably sluggish pace. In the beginning, I had thought Lee’s lengthy descriptions were some of the few examples of good writing. Eventually, I realized that they only served to maintain GSAW’s 287-page length without adding anything interesting.
    So now you may be wondering why I didn’t just give the book a 2/10. Despite my criticisms, I disagree with Eric on the lack of a strong message. Though it may take some time to comprehend the events of the story, the reader should close the book with memorable lessons regarding coming of age and change. Though not as clear-cut as TKAM. GSAW carries strands of lessons that can be applied to modern racism.
    All in all, Go Set a Watchman failed to meet my expectations. Though there was an interesting message, overall, it failed to deliver. I still stand by my opinion that it should have been released as an academic piece rather than the “prequel” it had been marketed as. It has been a pleasure to engage in these conversations with you guys and I am looking forward to my next independent reading book.

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