Go Set A Watchman

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Title: Go Set A Watchman Author: Harper Lee
Pages: 278 Genre: Fiction
Recommended to: Anyone who loves “To Kill A Mockingbird”, or wants a good story that makes you think deeply.
Song: (In honor of the setting) “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Unbelievable Discovery

It was always so sad, so tragic that Harper Lee was a one hit wonder. What would it be like to have just one masterpiece that at first sweeps the nation, and is then taught in schools for the next 50 years?

And then have a lost manuscript on a related storyline suddenly (if unbelievably) found and published just in time for the end of your lifespan..that’s even more incredible.

I will say three things about “Go Set A Watchman”:

  1. It is amazingly well-written. I loved it.
  2. I remain skeptical as to the origins of the novel. As much as I want Harper Lee to be the author, the timing of its discovery and release is strange.
  3. Reese Witherspoon is the perfect narrator for the audiobook.

Lovable Characters

Every character is perfectly fleshed in “Go Set A Watchman”. For better or worse, I bonded with Jean Louise (a.k.a. Scout), her boyfriend Hank, Atticus Finch, and even the old-fashioned aunt Alexandra.

Complicated Relationships

I’m tortured by Scout’s (Jean Louise’s) views of marriage. I want her to be in love with Hank. But I love how Hank just plain GETS her. Given her past, her skepticism of the future makes sense. She expresses the doubts that future generations of women would use to shape their own relationship decisions. Jean Louise has options and she knows it. While being reluctant to pursue matrimony with Hank, she also holds respect for the institution. After all, why make a commitment to something that you don’t think will last?

I have and will always love Atticus Finch. He is the ideal father of the modern woman, since he accepts and loves his daughter for who she is. He doesn’t lose himself in parenthood, but instead shares his viewpoints with his kids (i.e. reading to them whatever he was reading instead of children’s books).

The Old to the New

The 1960s were a time of great change, especially in the south. Lee respresents this in Jean Louise’s feminism, Macomb’s struggles with civil rights, and the stark difference between New York City and rural Alabama.

Among other women, I’ve often shared Scout’s sentiments. “She could not talk to them for 5 minutes without drawing up stone dead. “I can’t think of anything to say to them. They talk incessantly about the things they do, and I don’t know how to do the things they do.”

Or the idea of what a gentleman is. When Alexandra question Hank’s lack of manners, Scout counters with: “That’s not the trash in him; that’s the man in him.” (I now say this to myself when my husband breaks wind.)


Or the pursual of a liberal arts education and career: “To Alexandra, there was a distinct difference between one who paints and a painter; one who writes and a writer.” (If I had a nickel for every weird look I get when I say I’m a writer…)

Most people still need to work on this one: “Don’t you study about anyone else’s business ‘til you take care of your own.”

Universal Message

Jean Louise discovers that “Every man’s watchman is his conscience”. This is as true today as it was 50 years ago. This world is one giant gray area. To be at peace with yourself, you need to do what you feel is right.

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