Imua 'Iolani

563 Kamoku Street

Honolulu, Hawai'i

imua@iolani.org

"Go Set A Watchman" Book Review

February 26, 2019

     Set over 50 years after the iconic events of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”, her sequel “Go Set A Watchman” invites readers back to the South. Lee vividly portrays Jean Louise Finch’s, otherwise known as Scout, journey back to Maycomb County to visit her elderly father, Atticus Finch, and housewife aunty, Alexandra Finch. Now 26 years old and working in New York instead of the cozy town of Maycomb County, Alabama, Scout returns home at the beginning of the civil rights era to witness a major controversy between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) and the white citizens of Alabama.

     Contention arises when Scout follows Atticus to a city council meeting where her own father, Atticus Finch, who in “To Kill A Mockingbird” defended a black man, discussed the rejection of the actions of the NAACP and about the need for the continuation of segregation in Maycomb County. Believing that black people should have the same rights as white people, Scout’s opinions differed from her father, an attorney, and family. The book explains why Scout feels the way she does and how events in her life formed her perspective.

     This novel reflects real life issues of racial discrimination that have unfortunately persisted today. Scout does not see black or white people, but humans who deserve a chance at a fair life with equal rights.

     Instead of focusing on Scout’s childhood, Harper Lee travels to the future to when Scout is now an adult. Throughout the story, Harper Lee mixes flashbacks of her adolescence into the story. This is something that I like about this book because although Scout is moving on with her life, Lee wisely includes the important moments in her childhood that create the foundation for Scout’s beliefs today.

     Something else that is unique in this novel is in the change of personality of former character, Atticus Finch. In “To Kill A Mockingbird” Atticus is a kind attorney who takes the case for a black man who is convicted and is faced off against a white man. In Atticus’ conclusion of the trial, he states that, “some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.” In the sequel, Atticus’ perspective of the world has changed entirely and completely takes Scout by surprise. This is something that I enjoy about the novel because Harper Lee takes the plot in a whole different direction than in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Something that confirms the role change in Atticus is when he says, “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people (African Americans) living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social arcadia.”

     Harper Lee’s realistic fiction novels “To Kill A Mockingbird” and its sequel “Go Set A Watchman” would connect with those who enjoy political debate in a heartfelt book that gives an honest reflection of our world today.

     She perfectly describes my favorite character, imperfect country gal, Scout, in depth. Although Scout is imperfect, one of the qualities that I love about her is that she stands her ground, even to her dad, and never gives up on what she believes in. “You’re a coward as well as a snob and a tyrant, Atticus.” Although she looked up to Atticus her whole life, in that moment, she didn’t care about her past, she only cared about the current situation.

     “Go Set A Watchman” has been awarded the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction. This book was published in 2015, more than 50 years after “To Kill A Mockingbird” was published, yet it topped the best selling charts in 2015. The immense love for Harper Lee shows the popularity of her novels. Consider borrowing this book the next time you visit the library!

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