Saturday, August 22, 2015

Harper Lee: Go Set a Watchman, conclusion

Harper Lee:  Go Set a Watchman

Several days ago I finished Go Set a Watchman, and I can see why some would call it a mess, probably because it can't be resolved with To Kill a Mockingbird.  But, in my opinion, that's the reader's problem, not the novel's problem or failing.

Jean Louise has three confrontations: one with her Uncle Jack, one with her father, and one with Henry,  her possible/potential fiance.  It was not an easy process overall, for Jean Louise had grown up in the South, and she does share many of the political beliefs regarding States Rights and also the people's rights to live their lives as they wish, free from government interference (mostly Federal Government interference for nobody seems to be concerned about State Government interference which is just as intrusive, if not more so).  

I find the resolution to be very satisfying, because it's the resolution the novel has been pointing to from the beginning.  That is, the resolution is satisfying if one realizes that the novel is about Jean Louise and not about Atticus or Maycomb or civil rights or any of the great issues of the day.  They are there, they are important, they provide the texture to the times Jean Louis lives in and the demands made upon her as a person, but they are not what the novel is about.  I will repeat: the novel is about Jean Louise.

I have also come to the conclusion that To Kill a Mockingbird is a myth, a myth created by Jean Louise about her own childhood, the Myth of a Golden Age, long past.  Jean Louise believes in that myth, and so one day she discovers that she couldn't remain in that myth.  The real world is waiting and she must act. Perhaps the myth is related to that bit of conventional wisdom that one can't go "home" again because sometimes that "home" has changed and sometimes because that "home" never existed.

If you find my comments short, brief,  and less than satisfying--Good.  Go read Go Set a Watchman and then come back and argue with me. 

I stated earlier that I thought that Go Set a Watchman could turn out to be one of the ten best novels that I read in 2015, and now, after having finishing the novel, I still believe the same.   Moreover, it deserves to be read again. 


  1. That's 1 of the very few positive reviews of this novel that I've come across.

  2. Di,

    That's a shame.

    I'm sorry to hear that, but that was also what I found.

  3. Fred, your assessment of Go Set A Watchman isn't too far from my view. Actually, the more I read about it, the more I'm impressed with the story--especially if I can think of it as a standalone novel and ignore Mockingbird. The two are really unrelated novels that use the same source material.

    1. Jim Harris,

      I was very much impressed by your review. If I had read it first, I probably wouldn't have posted mine.

      Yes, _Go Set a Watchman_, definitely needs to be read as a standalone novel to really appreciate how good it is.

    2. You should always post your opinion. We probably don't have overlap in readers, and any book deserves as many reviews as it can get. Plus if people saw both of our reviews, the weight of the two might convince them of our point more than just reading one.

    3. Jim Harris,

      Good points. I'll keep them in mind.

  4. How's the style, though? Lots of reviews I've come across say that it's badly written.

    1. Di,

      Did they give any examples? I've seen several complaints also, but they never gave any examples.

      I didn't notice any problems. I thought it flowed quite nicely.

  5. Fred, I teach English at a HS in Tucson. I need 15 copies. I would like to contact anyone who would be willing to let me borrow the book for 6 weeks. Do you have any suggestions. Andrew - Thanks for any feedback.

    1. Andrew,

      I emailed you the following comment, but it was rejected for
      "banned content." I wonder what I said that was so objectionable to your server.

      Andrew, I'm sorry but I can't help you. I got my copy from the library. Most of the people I know are retired, and we use the library whenever possible. I suppose it's too late to get it through school.

      If I have to buy a book, I always check out for they usually have used books in very good condition and frequently new copies at reduced prices. Does Amazon have reduced prices for academic purchases?

    2. Andrew,

      Sorry about that. It should read ". . .I always check out for they usually. . .