Written by Thomas Eric Paulin for the #GiveABookToday Read-and-Write
Originally Published at http://iamericpaulin.blogspot.com
“…every man’s watchman, is his conscience.”
– Uncle Jack
Fifty five years after the release of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, its sequel (or considered by most as an early draft) finally hit the shelves earlier this year with Go Set A Watchman.
‘Go Set A Watchman’ is set 15 years after the monumental trial of a rape case allegation against a one-armed negro in TKAM. The main character, Jean Louise Finch, is already in her twenties. As the book opens, she is on her way home to her fictional hometown, Maycomb. It is a reunion with her father Atticus, who now suffers with arthritis and lives almost dependently with his sister, Alexandra. Half of the characters in TKAM are not present anymore; Jem died of heart attack some two years ago, Dill is sent to the war in Italy, Calpurnia is too old to work for the Finches anymore, and Boo Radley isn’t even mentioned at all. Nonetheless, their characters are being alluded through flashbacks that are supposed to be in TKAM’s storyline. On the other hand, new characters are introduced. There is Jean Louise’s (yes, she’s not called Scout anymore!) Childhood friend, Henry (whom she calls Hank) has been asking for her hand in marriage. He also works under the mentorship of Atticus, who treats him like his son. The only one who disapprove of him, is Aunt Alexandra, who considers him trash because of his family background.
Lee makes use of a flashback plot structure where past events are utilized in her deep storytelling. They are written with wit that would make one nostalgic and makes you want to read TKAM again. At some point, Lee would leave relevant information hanging that may result to inevitable confusions, but that’s the beauty of this masterpiece. It forces the readers to digest each dialogue and infer through statements kept within difficult implications.
To those who read TKAM, you would know how Lee built Atticus’ character as a pivotal influence to Jean Louise’s ideals in life. Labelled as ‘nigger-lover’, what could be a better way to deconstruct his character than to make him a ‘nigger-hater’? It is like the worst oxymoron in the history of Literature. He is Maycomb’s watchman. Thus, Jean Louise’s confusion is imperative when she finds out. Even her future husband, Hank, takes part of Maycomb’s Council meeting, which means that the person she would have married is one of those who turn against the dominance of colored people in the South. Jean Louise seeks guidance from her Uncle Jack, and he answered back with riddles that added up to her confusions. Dr. Finch does not give straight answers but provides a vague history of how colored men became inferior. He is a constructivist; he wants his niece to discover the answers on her own. This makes 90% of the book full of questions, which all the more makes it confusing.
Lee, in the remaining 10% of the novel, finally offers her answers. It is a whirlwind of rounded characters who were constructed, deconstructed, and are constructed again. Although GSAW is not as moving and as epic as TKAM, it still somehow lives up to the legacy of its predecessor. Lee proves once again the she is a one-of-a-kind writer who could turn contemporary writing into an instant classic overnight.
7.5 Stars out of 10