Go Set A Watchman
Pros: No, you do NOT get to redefine this American Literature icon
Cons: Hands off my Atticus..!!
All readers and viewers of film/TV have characters they have come to know who are inviolable in their mind. We know their hearts and mind. If there is one fictional character in my mind who I know …it is Atticus Finch.
Atticus Finch is no racist …not as portrayed in Go Set A Watchman.
Years after having left Maycomb, Alabama, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch has come home from New York City. Servant Calpurnia has left the family’s employ. Aunt Alexandra now tends to the needs of the aging Atticus. Scout’s brother Jem had “dropped dead in his tracks one day” years earlier. After mourning his loss, Atticus fixes on war veteran Henry Clinton as the one who would now take on his law practice. Louise and Henry being ‘an item’ is an extra benefit …whether Aunt Alexandra cares for his ‘white trash’ background or not.
The faint embers of the civil rights movement have come to Maycomb. The Maycomb County Citizens’ Council has gathered to fight this perceived threat of black activists and the NAACP. “Nothing’s happened here in Maycomb yet, but it’s always wise to be prepared.” Alexandra tells Louise. Atticus and Henry sit at the same table with other members of the Citizens’ Council. Louise’s faith and belief in her father are cut to the quick.
Author Lee mashes up this mess of clueless Louise, racist Atticus, bigoted Aunt Alexandra, love interest Henry, and others for hundreds of pages. More than a few flash-back stories are told of Scout, Jem, and Dill learning life’s lessons.
The Bottom Line
I call Go Set A Watchman a ‘mess’ …well, because it really is. A reader with a strong vision of Maycomb, the Finches, and Atticus will have a tough time buying into this story-line gone loony. I could not and did not accept it. I will not recommend this story to others. Coupled with the apparent (to some) crass commercialism and ‘lucky discovery’ of this early, unpublished Lee novel . . .it is all just too much for me.