Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?
O waste of lost, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?
O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.
― Thomas Wolfe, from Look Homeward, Angel
It was never about him, was it Scout?
Everyone is furious with Atticus, but we all must get in line behind Jean Louise Finch. You see, when she was a little girl, the world was still the world but her daddy was her hero, and we have been borrowing him ever since. Somehow our own fathers turned out to be flawed human beings but old Atticus remained faithfully in black and white. Well, we all have to grow up someday.
Go Set A Watchman really isn’t a separate book; it’s the rest of the story.
To Kill A Mockingbird was Scout’s adult reflection of a defining snapshot of her childhood, and it was appropriately subjective. It was a little girl’s view of race relations in the context of a white middle class child of the Depression-era south. In Mockingbird, she sits across the table from us with a cup of coffee and reflects with a warm, time-hewn nostalgia. Watchman has none of that. Watchman is a gossipy neighbor telling us about what happened to Jean Louise that time she found out she really couldn’t, as Thomas Wolfe said, go home again.
Well, join the club Scout.
Which of us can’t remember when we painfully learned the Truth about Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or the sainted father or grandmother who really was a flawed human being after all? More importantly, what about the time we really came face to face with ourselves? Growing up is a lot different than growing older and some people never really do. You see, growing up means accepting the world as it is and more so, our accountability in it.
Yes, Go Set A Watchman is about bigotry all right, but like Mockingbird, this isn’t Atticus’ story.
D I G D E E P E R
U.S. novelist Harper Lee was born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee studied law for four years at the University of Alabama and spent one year at Oxford University. In the 1950s she was an airline reservation clerk before leaving to devote her time to writing. In 1960 she wrote her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, a story narrated by a young Southern girl whose attorney father is defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 1962 the book was adapted into a motion picture.
“Lee, Harper,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).