Watching the Watchman

This post is mostly spoiler-free discussion of Go Set a Watchman. If you plan on reading the book and do not want to see minor thematic spoilers for it, you may want to skip today’s essay.go set a watchman

There has been a lot of talk about Harper Lee’s new book. I do mean a  lot, but it’s not all bad, and it’s not all good.

This is my take on the story. I think it reads like a first book. There are a lot of flashbacks in the novel, and they don’t always add to the story. The flashbacks felt like rambling thought, and this made it difficult for me to read.

Before the book even hit the shelves, there were a few articles about how Atticus is racist. Many people were upset and distraught by this. They had grown up with the Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbirdthe one that most readers felt had fought injustice and racism. I feel, most readers wanted to believe in the Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird. However, if you read both of the novels together, Atticus doesn’t really change. Most readers’ eyes have been opened to the idea that Atticus was ALWAYS racist. Just like Scout, we saw Atticus go from a good decent man in our eyes, to realizing that he has faults and isn’t all that we dreamed of.

This book is a good book to see comparisons, to be able to grow and learn about the characters much as Jean did. However, even if Atticus had remained a good person in the eyes of the reader, the book and its writing are just not good. Harper Lee seems to struggle with maintaining a plot and rhythm; it’s all over the place.

For those of you that have read it, did you enjoy it? Did you think it was better than I did? I’d love to hear others’ thoughts about the book.



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4 responses to “Watching the Watchman

  1. I agree with all of your points. It definitely read like a first draft to me, too, and I also felt the flashbacks contributed to this. Despite that — it’s a way for readers to see what goes into creating a masterful piece of fiction that endures for years; everyone has a not so good first draft, right? It was brave of Lee to publish this mostly as is.

    On the story itself, I think Lee wants us to realize that the people we look up to as our heroes and even the places we call home and are not always what they seem, and it’s our job to discover that as we grow older: it’s not always going to be spelled out to us. As you say, Atticus always was racist; but he was still a good man, and therefore the events of TKAM still make sense. People can be good and have flaws — shocker — that’s human nature. While there are several disappointments with the writing and narrative, the concepts ring true and should be considered with more than a passing glance. Is there no better time than now for Americans to reflect on who we are and who we want to be?

  2. It reads like a first draft because it was the first draft Harper Lee turned in to her publisher. I do not believe HL wanted this published. She may have signed the papers, but pre-stroke I don’t believe she would have. Much good can come from this being published but neither the publisher nor her lawyer had HL’s best interests here.

  3. Yeah. It sounds more and more like this was never intended for the public. I won’t be buying or reading it.

  4. I was profoundly affected by this book, I do think it’s rough and raw but still good. I definitely made the journey with Scout as her eyes opened to the reality of her father and her hometown. It has overtones of the Bell Jar to me, given that it’s partially about a young woman finding trying to make it in a big city.

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