rowan wrote:Zeph wrote:I should be finishing Go Set a Watchman today, by Harper Lee.
What'd you think?
I really enjoyed it! I think there was too much controversy surrounding this book. I always identified a lot with Jean Louise (Scout), because I also grew up with my dad and brother and felt uncomfortable with traditional "female" activities and roles. I identify with her even more now. On one hand, it does seem like a first draft and much of the events in the book are actually flashbacks to her childhood. I understand why the publisher wanted her to write a book surrounding the childhood of Jean Louise instead, To Kill a Mockingbird glorified her father as a progressive defender of Black rights. Go Set a Watchman is a much more realistic view of the way even the most sympathetic white people felt in the South pre Civil Rights. It doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it's not supposed to.
It focuses on Jean Louise's internal conflict with her hometown. While she has been living in New York City, she has felt sentimental towards her upbringing and her hometown. She misses romping outside with her brother and her father's gentle guidance. However, when she visits Macomb she has mixed emotions. People judge her regardless of how she dresses, her aunt criticizes people that she sees as "trash" because of their family history, and she has nothing in common with the people with whom she grew up. She finds herself in verbal arguments with almost everyone she encounters.
The racial components are what is sparking so much controversy. Atticus is in his seventies and is a member of a whites-only group that focuses on keeping an eye on the black population of the town. This is in the 1950's, leading up to the Civil Rights movement. While the town is majority Black, they were "respected" on a superficial level for years. White people hired them for labor and service, called them by their first name, and were cordial. When Jean Louise returns at the age of 26, she has noticed that racial relations are worse than they have ever been. People are paranoid about the black population seeking legal rights and refuse to hire or associate with them anymore. Atticus has joined this group because he believes it is part of his duty as a well-respected man in his community. While he had always taught Jean Louise to respect all people and never use the N word, he was born in the 19th century and still believes that segregation is the best solution for keeping the races living in harmony.
I think this book is a bit more mature and doesn't present you with a hero of the story. It's about small town life in the South, pride, fear, paranoia, and mass hysteria. Having grown up in a small town where my views were different than the norm, I totally get some of these feelings.