I’m sure that almost every high school student in the U.S. has read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Or if not, they’ve at least heard of it. What they might not know is that there is a sequel to this acclaimed classic that was released just this summer, Go Set A Watchman.
Go Set A Watchman is set two decades after To Kill A Mockingbird, and adult Jean Louise “Scout” Finch has just returned from New York City to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama to take care of her old father Atticus.
Growing up as a child, she was a loud-mouthed tomboy who looked up to Atticus as her role model. Now a mature young lady, she goes by her birth name Jean Louise instead of the casual nickname “Scout.”
Jean Louise is delighted to come back home, but begins to see a different side of her beloved town as it starts to change, and also discovers that Atticus is not the virtuous man she thought he was. She “grows up” in this novel as she develops a different perspective on the world around her.
Go Set A Watchman can’t technically be called a sequel because Lee wrote it as an early draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. The title is a reference to a passage in the Bible and alludes to how Jean Louise views Atticus as the “watchman” or moral guide of Maycomb. But as her Uncle Jack tells her, “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.” She learns that only she can be the voice of reason for herself.
I originally had high expectations for this novel. I was a huge fan of To Kill A Mockingbird. I was excited to reread about my favorite characters, but most of them, including Jem, Dill, and Boo Radley, were missing from Go Set A Watchman.
I found the book disorganized and confusing to read, as it switched from Jean Louise’s flashbacks to her present. The flashbacks were interesting because they had a To Kill A Mockingbird feel to it. They were humorous and heartwarming and depicted a Scout I knew and loved. But the novel can’t only be consisted of flashbacks, or else it’ll just be an extension of To Kill A Mockingbird.
Go Set A Watchman is also a story of race, but unlike its predecessor, it’s not a very clear or well written one. The book is sometimes similar to To Kill A Mockingbird, but sometimes it contradicts it.
Overall, I felt this novel to be a huge failure and a tarnish in an American classic’s memory. Go Set A Watchman was far from satisfactory. I’d prefer to stick to To Kill A Mockingbird.