Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman and Re-examining To Kill a Mockingbird
With the news of Harper Lee’s sequel Go Set a Watchman to the literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, many book nerds shook with excitement. Scout’s story tells us of the racial inequality in the 1930s, as well as how those with disabilities or social recluses were frowned upon or shunned just as the character Boo was shunned within the novel. The much hyped about manuscript of Go Set a Watchman, is again told from the point of view of the young protagonist Scout. This time, she is returning home to Alabama after moving to New York to visit her hero; her father Atticus. The sequel is set twenty years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird, with a more mature and wise Scout narrating the tale. This age difference will provide an interesting narrative set against that of a childlike Scout, whose young perspective was quite naïve and full of wonder. Lee’s talent in expressing that wonder is one to be applauded and even re-explored by ourselves as adults, for as we all know maturity with the sense of freedom and independence sometimes leaves us devoid of the curiosity and awe of youth.
Through Scout’s point of view in Mockingbird, we as the reader are submerged in this story as imaginative and curious children once again. As Scout describes the house on the hill, it floods back memories of certain spooky homes and myths around our own neighbourhood and how we remember them as our younger selves. This is the exact way that Scout is remembering her past in Alabama. By using a central narrative, we are given a single opinion. This singular naïve narrative gives us a description of the events through memory rather than through facts. Scout is retelling events that should be no concern of any child at such a young age. The issues of rape and racism that are discussed in the book are very adult topics. So by using a child’s voice to narrate the story, we are given a very innocent version of the hardships and true goings on in this particular subsection of life. Scout doesn’t understand why people hurt each other; why a man is hated for the colour of his skin, and why her father is seen as evil and traitorous for representing such a man. One incident that greatly displays Scout’s innocence is the mob scene. With the mob wanting to hang Tom Robinson, the black man accused of rape, Atticus stands up for his client with a rifle in hand – one man against an army. Although she was not meant to be there, Scout sees one of her school friend’s fathers and greets him by saying “Hey, Mr. Cunningham”. Due to her innocence, she merely thinks that the friend’s father didn’t hear her rather than ignoring her. Eventually, he does answer her when she mentions she is friends with his son, Walter. Ultimately, after Scout and Walter’s father finish talking, the mob disperses. Without even knowing what she has done, Scout saves Robinson from being murdered by the lynch mob. All she wanted to do was say hi to a friend’s father. Her pure, good-natured manner saved a life. This is why the narrative told through her eyes is so important, readers can remember the innocence we once felt ourselves in the hopes we can revive a sense of joie de vivre in our lives. Acknowledging small victories, exuding happiness and ignoring the negativity of others.
It will be an exciting experience to read how Lee chooses to portray Scout as an adult. A few online sources have stated that Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchmen before to To Kill a Mockingbird, so for a literature lover, it will certainly be a treat to see how the original idea led to such a wonderful novel that has stood the test of time.