The more I think about this book, the more I love it. A fantastic coming-of-age novel, to be read with an open mind and an open heart.
My review from Goodreads.com:
In the words of Harper Lee (which now make sense after reading the book), "Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscience."
Go Set a Watchman is a fast read, but it takes a second or two to digest it once you've finished it. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that our current society is very confused as to the point of this novel.
The main issue people have with this book is on the issue of race, so let me get right to it - The issues of race run much deeper and are far more complex than how our current society is trying to label the society characterized in Watchman. In today's society, it is so easy to simply say, "well, Atticus is clearly a racist," because we are reading this book from the point of view of a society in 2015. A society that is currently trying to deal with it's own issues regarding race, and a society that is obsessed with labels. I think to call Atticus a racist in this novel is to not fully understand the complexities of the human mind and soul. Do I agree with him 100%? No. But I am also not a lawyer in his sixties trying to continue a practice in 1950s Alabama. Is the Atticus of Watchman that same Atticus we know and love from TKAM? Not necessarily. But is that okay? Absolutely. Because guess what? The point of this book is not race...(say what??)
What I took away from this novel was not the same point I got from TKAM. This is not some book written to make a point about equal rights in America. And I think that's the beauty of it, but it's also where a lot of people have gotten confused. Harper Lee's point, I believe, in this novel was not to drive home equal rights. We get that. We know the Civil Rights movement was just getting started when Lee first wrote this book. And I think she used that more as a way to relate to her audience rather than to make a political statement. No, no...this book is not about race. This book is about the coming of age of a young woman, of finding your own way, of having the courage to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, even if they counter those you love most.
And so in sum, while I do not share Atticus' beliefs (and let's remember, he's a fictional character), I do hope to God that I do not have the same views and opinions when I'm sixty as I have right this moment. As we see with Jean Louise's character, to stay the same in one's views of the world is not to grow as a person. The purpose of the novel is not to portray Atticus as a racist, but to show him as a human being. The Atticus of TKAM is a God-like hero in a corrupt society, but the Atticus in Watchman is just a man. A man who still strives for justice, but perhaps doesn't quite see the world the way you and I do. And that's okay. Because that is what it means to be a human. And that, I believe, is the lesson to be learned here.
Read it. Form your own opinions of it. But please, for all that is good in this world, read it with an open mind and an open heart. There is so much more to it than what people are labeling it as.