“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.”
I finished reading Harper Lee’s new book which is actually her first book and was not released until now. This book is about a grown up Scout and a more grown up take on life in Maycomb. When I first saw spoilers about the character Atticus, I worried I would be upset and not like what I was going to read about him. But after reading the book, I like what Lee has done with this character.
In this book, Atticus becomes a human being. He is a human being with faults. This is appropriate for a grown up story. Although I have always loved the story of To Kill A Mockingbird and I still do, I realize it was about an idealized version of a father. Harper Lee shows us this in her new book. Like for any child growing up, Scout’s father had to be the perfect hero. She did not see that he had any failings. In Go Set A Watchman we see he has failings. It makes his character much more complex. At first this realization about Atticus almost destroys Scout and she wants to run as far as she can away from it. Then, with the help of her uncle, she comes to see that this experience has been necessary for her to see herself as a grown person and separate individual from her father. It is about Scout making this transition to adulthood.
I, like Scout, never thought I would want to know this new Atticus. But now I see he is a more complex character and he is not all bad either. He is a Southern man of that era, when the South was transitioning with the Civil Rights movement and desegregation. I think this is more realistic depiction of what he would be. We like to be able to put people in one category or another. Good or bad. See things as black or white. This book asks us not to do that but asks us to grow up and see people as they are and not run away, but try to find a meeting place.