Disscusing Atticus Without his Sugarcoat

After Go Set a Watchman(Watchman) written by Harper Lee publish, the crowd uproars with disappointment. Disappointments are raised from the shattered high hopes of people who are searching for “ethical candy”. A few represented negative reviews from Goodreads.Com like: “I wish this book had been left to rot as an old, forgotten manuscript in some long-forgotten warehouse. I want to remember Atticus Finch as a paragon. Sometimes, I want simplicity, and I want bliss in ignorance.”- Khanh (the Grinch), “I almost find it hard to believe that the same person who wrote the literary masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, such a powerful, impactful, and teachable artwork–one of my favorite classic books of all-time–also wrote this mess…“ –Kelly, and “…the fact that the publishing of this book is ethically shady, at best. This book will leave you with a terrible taste in your mouth…  I’ll keep my Atticus the way he was and the way Harper Lee intended.” – Melanie, have earned 980+ likes. Which drives me to wonder if we are still in a society close to the one described in Watchman, if we are the reason why Harper Lee feels reluctant to reveal Go Set a Watchman for so long – we are not ready to ingest what’s under the sugar coat of ethical candies.


Sarcastic comic pointing out a portion racism in our society.

Let’s say, when an ordinary American read of fascist governments, they might find the information amusing, disturbing, or ugly, but they won’t come to the conclusion that it is poorly written without a logical reason. That is because most modern Americans cannot relate themselves to fascism. Now looking back at Watchman: as a first draft, Watchman might not be as articulated as To Kill a Mockingbird (Mockingbird), nevertheless, it still contains the logistics and engaging tensions of a good story, far from failures. So what would make the crowd so irritated about paying for the book while knowing a logical reason why it lacks the aesthetic of a final draft? Simple, many are offended by a sugarless “Mockingbird”; ideas in Watchman is shocked them. Some would rather remain in their comfortable “The world is perfect for everyone” zone, staying ignorance, instead of realizing that “all (wo)man are created equal” is far from being implemented in this country.

'Run this by 'Legal,' but sprint it by 'Ethics.''

‘Run this by ‘Legal,’ but sprint it by ‘Ethics.”

In contrast to a portion of Americans’ opinions, Watchman’s worldview is mostly continuous with Mockingbird. One can identify the coherence between the two novels through subtle indications. At a glance, it might be difficult for the readers like me to comprehend how Atticus changes as he ages, transforming into the racist conformer in Watchman. But evidence in both novels confirms how Atticus might not have become much of a different person. In Mockingbird, Atticus advises Scout to: “climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In order to understand someone. However, when a judicious spectator watches Mockingbird, one would realize that Atticus himself made no effort to understand Tom Robinson’s life. In his ending statement, Atticus made no reference to Tom Robinson’s background: where he lives, how he lives, or what he lives for (Marsh). He even openly states his discrimination between colors: “She did something that in our society is unspeakable: She kissed a black man.” (Mockingbird). Atticus could not and did not accept why a young lady with “color privilege” would be interested in close interactions with an African American. Atticus’ weapon to win the case is not understanding of Tom Robinson, but the jurors, who’re also white. He wavers the jurors into a trap of honor codes: “…an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber, which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie I do not have to point out to you. And so a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to “feel sorry” for a white woman has had to put his word against two white people’s” (Mockingbird) – guiding the jurors into believing that they would be heroic to “save” someone helpless without their vote.

The reason why readers like me are so surprised to see the Atticus in Watchman is because how the narration by Scout leads readers to identify themselves with her – who used to see Atticus as an idealized moral saint. When Scout finally comes back twenty years later, she learned to pick up more about people’s characters. There, Jean’s mental picture of Atticus becomes fuller. Like what uncle Jack yelled at her: “Jean Louise, have you ever met your father?” (Watchman 271) The “father” here is a realistic, imperfect human being who may not be a perfect moral standard, but indeed a good father. When Jean has trouble identifying between her personal beliefs and Atticus’, she feels betrayal. Until Uncle Jack brings her and the readers to the other part of the story: “He was letting you break your icon one by one…reduce him to the status of a human being.” (Watchman 266). Atticus knows all too well about Jean’s inner “tin god” (the saintly Atticus) (Watchman 268) and strains to allow Jean to realize the flaw of the “tin god” as gradual as possible. When Jean cries: “…despise you and everything you stand for.” (Watchman 253), Atticus accepts the difference in opinions between him and his daughter. Not letting opinions become personal, Atticus replies back to Jean: “Well, I love you.” (Watchman 253). At the end of the caustic yet wall breaking conflict, perhaps not all readers, but Jean finally “met” her father.


Work cited:

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Phillip Alford. Universal-International, 1962. Web.

“Go Set a Watchman Community Reviews.” 2016 Goodreads Inc. N.p., July 2015. Web.

Marsh, Laura. “These Scholars Have Been Pointing Out Atticus Finch’s Racism for Years.” New Republic. N.p., 14 July 2015. Web.

Image References:

Attorneys Applicant. Digital image. Cartoonstock.com. Cartoon Stock, n.d. Web. http://www.alistgator.com/top-10-racist-moments-in-tintin-comics/

Hergé. Tintin Belgium. Digital image. Alistgator.com. N.p., n.d. Webhttp://www.alistgator.com/top-10-racist-moments-in-tintin-comics/

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