mooncat_chelion: (bibliophile)
[personal profile] mooncat_chelion
Well, finally finished Go Set a Watchman (shakes fist at the stupid busy week that took up her reading time). Overall, I was...ok-ish with it. It was rough at times, probably half of it was Jean Louise/Scout reminiscing on her childhood, and was occasionally hard to follow who was speaking. It apparently was the first draft of what later became To Kill a Mockingbird. (I also learned that Harper Lee was friends with Truman Capote and helped him research material for his book In Cold Blood Neat.) Anyway...
Many, many people are crying out in outrage that Atticus Finch is racist. How dare he be written like that, etc etc. Actually, I found that these reactions mirror Jean Lousie's pretty closely. She and the general public have the same issue: they thought of Atticus as a paragon of virtue, a saintly man who stood up for a race that was viewed as lesser at the time. She agonizes over this discovery, feeling that her whole world is crumbling before her. She goes to visit Calpurnia, the family's former housekeeper and feels that even she has changed and turned against her. Jean Louise spends about half the book agonizing over everything, finally confronting her father in a hurtful, angry diatribe. Her eccentric Uncle eventually talks her through the last of her grief, and helps her see things in a new perspective. Yes, Atticus has some thoughts that are uncharitable towards Blacks, viewing them as children who need to grow. He would rather that growth be slow, so they could absorb it "at the speed at which they could", to paraphrase, and still seems to firmly believe that the blacks needed the whites to save and look out for them, and blames the NAACP for causing troubles. But he's not about to start lynch mobs and "run the darkies out of town", either. He is, as another reviewer put it, a "racial pragmatist". Her Uncle calls Jean Louise a bigot but only a "turnip sized one" because of her attitude towards her father, her childhood friend and beau, and the town of Maycomb in general. In the end, she makes peace with her father, finds out he is proud of her for standing up to him, and the story ends, with her tired acceptance of the situation and actions of both her father and her boyfriend.

Basically, what you can take from it is the old lesson of no one is perfect, we all have flaws, and putting people on pedestals is unfair both to oneself, and the person being elevated. It's a bittersweet resolution, Jean Louise finally seeing her father as human and not in the godlike state she'd viewed him before, but still showing her own flawed humanity with some of her thoughts as well. Essentially, she's not as colourblind as she had been originally portrayed, though she is more idealistic and comfortable with change than her father.

Final thoughts: I'm ambivalent to this work. It may be worth a read, just to see the origins of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a rough and flawed story, reflecting the rough and flawed nature of the characters within.

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