Blog 6: A Change for the Worse

The difference between To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman is startling to say the least. The proclaimed hero in the first novel has completely changed to something almost unrecognizable. Sure, his fatherly relationship with Jean Louise is intact, but it threatens to fall several times throughout Go Set a Watchman. I almost feel as if this novel is a post apocalyptic version of the beloved original. Everything seems to have changed, lives have been lost. It’s a giant walk down memory lane for Jean Louise, and nothing is like she remembered.

The introduction of Atticus in this novel is very interesting. He is first written in as a frail old man anxiously awaiting his daughter’s arrival. “He had been a big man before age and arthritis reduced him to medium size. He was seventy-two last month, but Jean Louise always thought of him as hovering somewhere in his middle fifties—she could not remember him being any younger, and he seemed to grow no older” (Lee 13).  From this, we sense no change in Atticus’s portrayal. Lee writes as if everything has remained the same, only the years have flickered by. Yet soon after their heartwarming embrace, Atticus’s changes are become noticeable.

In the To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch goes against societal views of racism. Representing a young black man, Atticus was not with the majority. This is how the novel frames him as a hero: he does what he believes is right, which puts his life and reputation in danger. However, when Jean Louise finds the pamphlet for the Maycomb citizens’ council, she is exposed to the racism that Maycomb still holds. When she asks Alexandra her thoughts on it, she states that “they’re hard to come by these days… there are a lot of truths in that book” (Lee 71). Disgusted, Jean Louise realizes that much has changed since she was the events of To Kill A Mockingbird.

The fact that this novel was potentially a first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird is incredibly confusing. Why change Atticus’s character so drastically between the two novels? I believe that Atticus really hasn’t changed much at all. During childhood, most kids view their parents as heroes. It’s impossible to see them as anything else, as parents are simply setting examples for their children, so children only assume it is the correct way to act. Given that most of the To Kill a Mockingbird was written in Scout (Jean Louise)’s point of view, I believe that this skewed her perspective, ultimately changing the whole perception Atticus in the novel. What if Atticus was just as racist in the To Kill a Mockingbird as in Go Set a Watchman, but was viewed by Jean Louise as a hero just because he was her father? Either way, Atticus’s decision to represent Tom Robinson was a bold act. An act, I believe, that was to keep the justice system intact. Atticus could have believed that every man, regardless of race, deserves a fair trial, thus justifying his decision to represent Robinson. He describes to Jean Louise that the only way to understand someone is to “climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Lee 30). One of life lessons, Jean Louise has held her fathers values from the first novel throughout the second. The fact that Atticus’s original values conflict with his “new” values separates Jean Louise. In fact, it destroys her relationship with her father, as they have both grown apart from each other.

Overall, this sequel is rather confusing, completely changing everything the reader learned about Atticus in the first novel. It prompts many questions about the motives of Atticus, and potentially the integrity of the people of Maycomb.


Works Cited:

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

Lessening the Societal Impact of a Powerful Novel


Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is an influential novel all on its own, but examining the weight of its impact alongside her formerly published novel To Kill a Mockingbird sheds a whole new light on what this publication did to society. There has been a great deal of chatter over Go Set a Watchman since its publication in 2015; some have called it nothing more than a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird and others have said that it should not have been published at all. Regardless, I think we can all agree that there were some major changes in the depictions of characters from To Kill a Mockingbird to Go Set a Watchman, especially in Jean Louise Finch (Scout) and Atticus Finch.

In Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise is at the ripe age of 26, contrary to her being a child in To Kill a Mockingbird. Being an adult, full of independent views and opinions, makes a huge difference in the reception of the content in the novel. Having a child narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird gives the reader a sense of innocence and even protection from some biases. For example, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird asks her older brother Jem “Well how do you know we ain’t Negroes?” (Lee 78). On the contrary, Scout is all grown up in Go Set a Watchman and not only is the innocence lost, but she has developed a whole independent life in New York City, separate from Maycomb County, Alabama where both novels are set. She has grown up to be more progressive than both the average citizen of Maycomb County and her own father. Showcasing this is her sarcastic response to the “Black Plague” informational pamphlet she found amongst her father’s other literature: “I especially liked the part where the Negroes, bless their hearts, couldn’t help being inferior to the white race because their skulls are thicker and their brain-pans shallower—whatever that means—so we must all be very kind to them and not let them do anything to hurt themselves and keep them in their places.” (Lee 8.26). She obviously has her own opinions on race and this was the first instance where the realization of a huge differing in opinions between Scout and her father Atticus happened, by both Scout and the readers who “knew” Atticus Finch from reading To Kill a Mockingbird prior to Go Set a Watchman.

To Kill a Mockingbird played an important role in society. It portrayed a specific, but not uncommon occurrence of racial prejudice and gave readers an inspirational protagonist, Atticus Finch, who stood up against this and paved the way for others to do the same. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel highlighted the issues with racism and social injustice and proved worthy of entering, and staying a part of many United States public schools’ curriculums. You can view a recent ABC news report on the topic here (Shapiro). However, now Atticus our hero complies with the racial prejudices that exists 20 years down the road in Go Set a Watchman instead of standing up against them and Scout, who obviously takes issue with this is left confused and also takes no significant steps towards eliminating this racial prejudice. The novel has believed criticism for this, with one reviewer saying “Atticus fraternizes with segregationists and maintains that blacks and whites in Maycomb, Alabama are not ready for desegregation” (Galehouse). Galehouse, in her review of Go Set a Watchmen includes racist quotes from Atticus such as “Jean Louise, have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?…”You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that?” (Galehouse). Atticus, near the end of the novel is even caught saying “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” (Lee 17.102). The same man, promoting empathy and equality in To Kill a Mockingbird, becomes nothing more than a hypocrite as we get to know him better. Go Set a Watchman provides no exceptional lessons in morality and it even takes away from those learned in To Kill a Mockingbird by turning our beloved protagonist into an intolerant racist.

Works Cited

Franklin, Mary Alice. “Go Set a Watchman: A Draft, Not a Novel.” The Huffington Post., 16 July 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Galehouse, Maggie. “Racist Rants from Atticus in ‘Go Set a Watchman'” Houston Chronicle. Hearst Newspapers, LLC, 15 July 2015. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Giraldi, William. “Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Should Not Have Been Published.” New Republic. New Republic, 16 July 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

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

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960. Print.

Shapiro, Emily. “Harper Lee: The Impact of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” ABC News. ABC News Network, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Atticus Quote Image:

The Demystification of Jean Louise

When the novel Go Set a Watchman came out I did not want to read it. I heard all of these reviews about how it painted this character Atticus Finch as a racist. I remembered growing up in the south and reading To Kill A Mockingbird and admiring this character who, even as a white man from the south in the 1930’s, was able to stand up for the rights of a black man. The idea that he may be ruined scared me away from reading the book for a while. However, now that I have finished it I am glad that I read the novel.

Gregory Peck portraying Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill A Mockingbird

Gregory Peck portraying Atticus Finch and Mary Badham portraying Scout in the 1962 film To Kill A Mockingbird

As I read the novel I found myself understanding something different than what I was expecting. Yes Atticus Finch held some troubling ideals, but I found myself feeling like maybe it wasn’t him who changed, maybe it was Jean Louise.

To Kill A Mockingbird is narrated from the first person perspective of a six-year-old Jean Louise. Go Set A Watchmen is in the third person, but very much through a twenty-something Jean Louise’s eyes. That is a big age difference and a huge difference developmentally between the two novels. To see the stories through her lens we get an inherent narrator bias. As a six year old she idolized her father. “Jean Louise had never known her mother, and she never knew what a mother was, but she rarely felt the need of one,” (Watchman, 116). He was her only parent and he was in her eyes the picture of what a hero was. As the audience, that is what we saw as well. Since we only read her side of the story we know little about Atticus’ motivations and what was said when Jean Louise was playing with Jem and Dill and not listening in on her father’s work. Now she is in her twenties, she has lived away from Maycomb and developed some of her own ideas about right and wrong from her time away. Since she came back to Maycomb her eyes have been opened to the things that were wrong with her hometown and even her own family.

I also think it is important to note that this might be the first time that she is being exposed to the bigotry in her hometown. In Go Set a Watchman it seems as though Atticus won Tom Robinson’s case back when Jean Louise was six. “[Atticus] took his stand before a jury, and accomplished what was never before or afterwards done in Maycomb County: he won an acquittal for a colored boy in a rape charge. The chief witness for the prosecution

Maycomb County Alabama from the film To Kill A Mockingbird.

Maycomb County Alabama from the film To Kill A Mockingbird.

was a white girl,” (Watchman, 109). The loss of the case was something that was a point of trouble for the children in To Kill a Mockingbird. “It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd… ‘It ain’t right, Atticus,’ said Jem. ‘No son, it’s not right.’” (Mockingbird, 212). The children had a hard time trying to understand how a jury could convict a man who, in their eyes, was so obviously innocent. If Atticus did win the case then theoretically Jean Louise would have never experienced that turmoil. That would mean that this is the first time where she finds that someone is questioning or defying her morals. This could add to the pain because revelation for the first time in her twenties is harder than if she had realized at as young as six that this was an issue.

I personally have had similar experiences to Jean Louise’s struggles. I have found myself disagreeing on big issues with some of the people in my life who I love the most. It is extremely difficult to find that this person that you have looked up to in life and who you love so dearly holds some terrible views. However, even if it is a point of disagreement that I care a great deal about, I have found it impossible to completely dissociate myself from someone so important to me. In the novel it is Jean Louise’s father, who she revered her whole life. She struggles a great deal when his beliefs differ from her own morals, but in the end she still loves him dearly. I can relate to Jean Louise in this sense. While this may be troubling to many, it is a very realistic scenario. I have found, for myself, this book has provided a great deal of clarity and has allowed me to connect with the characters further than I was able to in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus has become a more human and less godlike character, and Jean Louise has new stories and troubles that I relate to greatly.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. First Harper Perennial ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2016. Print.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner Books, 1982. Print.



Atticus Finch: A More Realistic, Yet Not Destroyed, Man

Atticus Finch is a well known character as the lawyer who defended Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (TKM). In this novel, Atticus’s daughter, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is the narrator recalling her experience of her father defending a black man accused of rape when she was six years old. At this time, she sees him as a role model for doing this seemingly generous task along with making enough time for her despite being a busy man (TKM). Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee, without question changes the character of Atticus Finch. He goes from being a heroic figure in Scout’s eyes to a racist as Jean Louise is now twenty six in the latter book. This drastic shift in Atticus Finch’s character suggests perhaps there are some factors under the surface revealing that Atticus’s character may not have changed as much as the disheartened To Kill a Mockingbird fans think. There is evidence from both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman that perhaps Atticus is not such an innocent man in To Kill a Mockingbird, and also that he may not be so guilty in Go Set a Watchman and this may be in part why Jean Louise Finch goes a little easy on her dad when he crushes her childhood mentality.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, when Atticus Finch is delivering his closing argument in the trial, he reminds the jury of the ‘social crime’ for a white woman to kiss a black man (TKM). As he is at least in part justifying Mayella Ewell’s decision to find a cover up for her social injustice, he still generalizes that blacks and whites are seen as separate entities in his society. Because he ends up delivering such a powerful closing speech that should clearly show Tom Robinson is innocent of the crime, this statement can easily be overlooked. While Atticus Finch says “[he is] no idealist to believe in the integrity of our courts” (TKM), he never explicitly says that in general men and women should be treated equal. Other than this one statement, Atticus Finch is truly an iconic man who fought for equality. Unfortunately, this information is coming from the point of view of a six year old girl who would naturally see her only parent as an iconic figure so much of Atticus’s character is likely distorted. However, while the concrete evidence still makes Atticus Finch seem exceptionally more tolerant than he was in Go Set a Watchman, Atticus Finch still does not change as much as people may think.

Chapter 17 of Go Set a Watchman does a fantastic job of encompassing Atticus Finch’s character. He and Jean Louise begin talking innocently about their different social views. Gradually, Jean Louise begins to lose composure until she finally erupts when he asks her “what’s to prevent any Negro from going where he pleases in this country and finding what he wants.” (Lee 242) She blames him for not being hard enough on her and not telling her the truth about the way he truly feels. While this is going on, Atticus stays even keeled and explains to her “you’re upset by having seen me doing something you think is wrong, but I’m trying to make you understand my position.” (Lee 246) Atticus is still gentle with Jean Louise but he has to treat her a little bit differently as a twenty-six year old woman. It is common for parents to not tell their children things that might hurt their feelings and allow them to figure these things out on their own. Despite Jean Louise being on the verge of throwing a chair at him, Atticus simply replies with “Are you finished with what you have to say?” (Lee 248) This is a truly admirable quality of Atticus’s that holds through both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. Additionally, Atticus does not show himself as a highly racist character. By attending the citizen’s council meetings, Atticus is doing nothing malicious. Rather, he is simply relating to the way society feels about the pressing issue of race as he does in his famous closing statement.


While Jean Louise has aged, Atticus was always a caring father that wanted the best for her.

There are changes in how Atticus expresses himself around Jean Louise at age 26 than when she was six, but many of his ideals, seen both implicitly and explicitly, are roughly the same. In the final chapter after Atticus has told Jean Louise he is proud of her for formulating her own opinions, she is clearly more at ease. Because Atticus’s character did not change all that much and he wanted the best for Jean Louise in her childhood by not informing her of his imperfections, Jean Louise rightfully eased up on her father. She understood that she was making him out to be a villain that he was not. She was ultimately able to understand that she was looking through her father’s good qualities and empathize with him for having to deal with her ranting. There is nothing in Go Set a Watchman that makes me not want to empathize with Atticus Finch for being thrown under a bad light.

Works 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.

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. Cartoon Stock, n.d. Web.

Hergé. Tintin Belgium. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web

Blog 6: Who’s the Racist Now?

The most prominent theme found in Go Set a Watchman is growing up. Readers follow the story of one Jean Louise Finch as she recounts her childhood, then revisits her hometown of Maycomb only to find it drastically different from how she remembered. As she has aged throughout the years, she has adapted what we consider more modern views of race, so returning to the southern, traditional, racist town where she grew up is a stark contrast to the beliefs she holds. She spends almost all of the novel trying to understand how the people she knows best, the people nearest and dearest to her, could be so racially blind. However, by the end, she seems to accept their stances even though she considered them so blatantly wrong when she initially comes home.

A substantial part of the evidence towards the racism in Maycomb is found at the coffee held in Jean Louise’s honor by her aunt Alexandra. She is forced to sit around and act formally to women that hold themselves to outlandish standards and discuss topics that they have absurd views on. She sits down to talk with one woman, Hester, about Calpurnia’s grandson that hit and killed a white man with a car. Hester is disappointed when Jean Louise mentions that he’ll be tried for manslaughter, not murder, since it was unintentional, and Hester says she “thought we’d have some excitement” (Watchman, 172). Jean Louise becomes increasingly uncomfortable but chocks it up to her losing her sense of humor. She then becomes distressed because Hester says “[there] hasn’t been a good trial around here in ten years. Good n***** trial, I mean” (Watchman, 172), and she realizes she has nothing to talk to these women about because they all hold such racist views and discuss such meaningless things that Jean Louise feels as if she can’t relate to any of them, and yet she thinks it’s something wrong with her. She is constantly questioning herself because she seems to be the outsider of the town, so it seems more and more apparent to her that her views are the ones that are “wrong”. When they talk about her life in New York, and how unsegregated they are, one of the women says to Jean Louise that “you must be blind or something” for not noticing people of color around her (Watchman, 181). The racial standards in New York differ so heavily from those in Alabama, and Jean Louise goes through very serious self-consideration to figure out which beliefs are the better ones to hold.


For many, the most shocking part of the book was the seemingly unforeseen change in Atticus’s character.

While the citizens of Maycomb are largely influential in Jean Louise’s road to maturing and finding who she is and what she believes in, even more influential are Atticus and Hank. Her witnessing them at the town meeting destroyed her mental images of them in their purest state, because they all of a sudden had become some of them– those who think themselves superior just because of their skin color. After seeing them at the meeting, she spends time by herself and thinks, “The one human bring she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her…had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly” (Watchman, 113). She feels as if he is completely against her, and these horrid views are not ones that the Atticus she knows and loves would hold. She feels equally as betrayed by Hank, who she liked very much and trusted. This makes her feel more alone than ever, as if she doesn’t even belong in this town that she came from. However, after some talks with her Uncle Jack and lots of time, she comes to find that these people, even if they’re not who she remembers, are still actually the same people that they’ve always been. She is the one who has changed and grown up over the years, and matured her beliefs to become a better and more welcoming person, while Maycomb remained static.

To summarize Jean Louise’s growth over her lifetime in one quote:

“Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born color blind.” (Watchman, 122)

Works Cited:

Green, Amy. “My Take on Go Set a Watchman.” The Monday Heretic. WordPress, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Nov. 2016.

Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Blog #6: Same Town, Different Stories

watchman-mockingbirdLike many avid readers, I consider To Kill a Mockingbird to be one of the greatest books ever written. I first read To Kill A Mockingbird in 8th grade, where Atticus Finch taught his children, and myself, the importance of upholding justice and protecting the innocent even in the hardest of times. Atticus Finch is a man of upstanding moral character, and he is one of the biggest reasons why To Kill a Mockingbird is regarded as a time-honored classic in American literature.

When news rolled around in 2015 about a To Kill a Mockingbird “sequel” — Go Set a Watchman, I was wary. I heard many mixed reviews about it, including statements that Atticus Finch was racist and I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not.

Unfortunately, my hopes of Atticus’ supposed racism as a joke was wrong. This change of Atticus’ character between the two books was the primary reason for the mixed reviews of Go Set a Watchman. Atticus’ moral integrity was the reason why lawyers became lawyers and why students across our country understand the importance of tolerance (Carter).

Despite the drastic character change people see in Atticus between Lee’s two books, I found that Atticus’ greatest constant was his devotion to the law. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus tries to promote justice, working to free an innocent African-American man from a false conviction by a white woman in spite of Maycomb’s inevitable condemnation of Tom Robinson on account of his race. But he also feels the need to take legal action against Boo Radley for assaulting Bob Ewell when Boo was defending Jem, until Heck Tate tells him to allow poetic justice to prevail without the law (Mockingbird 276-280). On the other hand, Go Set a Watchman has Atticus successfully defend Tom Robinson against a white girl despite his own racist views against African-Americans. In spite of his own views or the inevitable outcome, Lee preserves Atticus’ ability to carry out the law without bias. Like Uncle Jack says in Go Set a Watchman, “he’ll always do it by the letter and by the spirit of the law. That’s the way he lives” (Watchman 268). I find this to be both a virtue and fault in Atticus’ character. Because Atticus follows the law sometimes to a flaw, it allows him to do the right thing without looking at race, but at the same time, he uses his concern for state’s rights to justify his racism against African-Americans. It is this trait Lee keeps constant that I believe allowed her to change Atticus so much while retaining his identity and reminded me of how the law can be used to justify both ends of an argument.

But the most alarming part of Atticus’ change was how subtly it was conveyed. It wasn’t as if Atticus’ character was backwards, it was that he was as erudite, patient, and wise as he had been in To Kill a Mockingbird. He still loved his daughter, read books before bed, and maintained an easy-going disposition — but now he was racist. And it was this one change in character that stopped all empathy for Atticus compared to the warmth he received in To Kill a Mockingbird

Between Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird, all Harper Lee had to do with Atticus was change one characteristic, his drive for justice and fairness for all people, regardless of race, to make us look at him in an entirely new way. In my opinion, this made Atticus’ change in character so difficult to comprehend because it easily turned a well-loved character into a character whose morals we could not agree with. From this, there was a lack of empathy and understanding for Atticus, not over physical and moral wrongdoing, but a conflict in ideology. Having a lapse in empathy over a conflict in ideology is not uncommon, but it is also unwarranted and destroys understanding between people. Jean Louise’s own thoughts and accusations against her father for lying to her mirrors that of the readers. She accuses him of lying because she had never seen the racist side of Atticus until she saw him at the Maycomb Citizen’s Council meeting. At this, Jean Louise shuts down her empathy for Atticus in light of this fundamental disagreement. It was unfathomable that Atticus could have ever been characterized as racist until reading Go Set a Watchman. Jean Louise did not learn her father was racist until she was a grown woman. When her Uncle Jack tries to talk her through her anger, he says, “‘… now you, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father’s… you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings… You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming that your answers would be your answers” (Watchman 267). tumblr_nvduqkgcli1un54r5o1_400Just as Jean Louise expected Atticus to be her perfect moral guide, so did we. When this was not the case, Jean Louise and readers could not understand why. We all stopped our empathy for Atticus because we disagreed with him, not because committed an actual crime, though it may have felt like it. There were no warning signs or indications for Jean Louise to figure out that her father was racist. Thus, her idolization of Atticus as a man who looked at people without regard to race had no reason to be questioned. As this happened, Atticus let Jean Louise to go into a rage if it meant finally allowing her to see him as he was, to finally separate her perception of her father as a god from her father as a human (Watchman 266). And perhaps this is what let Jean Louise truly understand her father for who he was and finally begin to empathize with him again. This is an experience readers share with Jean Louise as we must cope with the fact that Atticus is not perfect, his earlier characterization does not reflect him in a positive light the way we had expected. But that does not mean we should not or cannot empathize with Atticus Finch.

In the end, I’ve reconciled the differences between To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman and have learned to appreciate their respective benefits. While To Kill a Mockingbird has always been more informative of the human spirit, justice, and compassion, Go Set a Watchman has a tone of maturity that To Kill a Mockingbird is somewhat incapable of, given Jean Louise’s age at the time. My experience was that To Kill a Mockingbird was a book that taught me important life lessons but Go Set a Watchman related the universal experience of returning home and realizing that much has changed. Go Set a Watchman is the equivalent of realizing that something you have looked up to is not perfect, but you can still connect and empathize with it somehow. No matter how different it may be. It captures that final growing pain one must experience in which they must separate their mind from others and realize no one may truly ever understand them. But despite this crushing reality, Go Set a Watchman tells readers that this is not a bad thing. Just as Uncle Jack tells Jean Louise that her empathy now along with her different views will help change Maycomb in time, the unique perspective of any individual can bring change over time. To Kill a Mockingbird is irreplaceable to me; but I was able to appreciate Go Set a Watchman nevertheless.

Works Cited:

Carter, Stephen. “Harper Lee Created the Greatest American Hero.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. New York: Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Lee, Harper. “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (n.d.): 276-80. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Dear Harper Lee, Who Is Atticus Finch?

In the 1962 film adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch clearly states “All men are created equal” (KM). Throughout the preceding scenes of the film, Atticus appears to reflect this belief—at least to some degree. However, other viewers have a different take on him entirely. For instance, Katherine Nichols published an article on Jezebel titled “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise.” There, she provides a detailed description of how she viewed Atticus in both To Kill a Mockingbird (book version) and Go Set a Watchman. She does a brilliant job providing examples that clearly validate her understanding of Atticus as a racist, and concludes the article with a strong statement saying, “Mockingbird Atticus is too easy to read as virtuous—a brave individual, not strong enough on his own to make any headway against inequality. The truth is that he never meant to” and she’s right. With that being said, I must admit that prior to reading Nichols’s article, I too was guilty of seeing Atticus as an almighty do-gooder of his time; somehow being a noble, virtue-driven egalitarian while surrounded by individuals of lesser quality than he. While that is no longer my exact interpretation of him, I still believe the man deserves an immense amount of credit. So who is Atticus Finch really? If he is racist, can he still be perceived as a role-model?

I’ll start with the latter. Can Atticus still be viewed as a role-model? The answer is yes, but a better question would be: how? Well, because everyone is prejudice. Some clearly more than others, and most may not even be aware that they are at all. I’m not saying that’s how it ought to be, but I am saying that’s how it is. Gail Price-Wise, a graduate from Harvard School of Public Health appears to agree, as she also says, “We all have prejudice” (McAteer). The reason Atticus’s prejudice isn’t so apparent in To Kill a Mockingbird is at least in part because the film is being filtered through Scout’s perspective. What that tells us is not only that Atticus must be exceedingly diligent as a parent to have shielded his children from the obscene racist norms that take place within the town at this time, but he also made sure his own prejudicial beliefs aren’t intruding on his children’s ability to form their own perspective of the world. In contrast, we can clearly see how the Ewell family differs on these principles.

The bottom line is—and I think Price-Wise says it best—“…Individuals differ based on how they were raised, their personal life experiences, their education, socio-economic status, whether they have traveled, and the personality they were born with” (McAteer). Yes, Atticus is a flawed man. No, Atticus is not the epitome of all that is good. But, given the time-period and norms of Maycomb, Atticus still deserves to be a role-model, and he has been, especially to Jean. Even in chapter seventeen of Go Set a Watchman, when Jean verbally lashes out at Atticus; he simply chooses to accommodate her by staying calm and polite. He doesn’t raise his voice to her, and he surely doesn’t strike her (as Bob Ewell has done to his daughter). It takes immense self-control not to retaliate in someway, but he neglects to make the matter worse. So who is Atticus Finch? He is an imperfect man, with imperfect beliefs, but he may just be—a perfect father.


 Works Cited

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

McAteer, Ollie. “Actor Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch in the film ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, 1962.”Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images, 19 Feb. 2016, Accessed 24 October 2016.

Mitchell, Robert. “Fighting Prejudice by Admitting It.” Harvardgazette, 05 Nov. 2013, Accessed 24 October 2016.

Movieclips. “All Men Are Created Equal – To Kill a Mockingbird (6/10) Movie CLIP (1962) HD.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 16 June 2011. Web. 24 October 2016.

Nichols, Katherine. “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise.” Jezebel, 20 July 2015, Accessed 24 October 2016.

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

Aversion to Racism-An Unpopular Opinion

Much of the anger and chaos which resulted from the publication of Go Set a Watchman stemmed from the apparent changes in the character of Atticus Finch. Transforming from the beloved Saint Atticus of Mockingbird who faced down lynch mobs and championed the black community in court, to an apparently passive member of the racist community was dismaying to many who loved the original character. The Atticus who stood for bravery and determination in the face of adversity, had seemingly withered into a man willing to listen to and himself espouse morally bleak sentiments. But this outrage in the literary community demonstrates an ingrained blind optimism about the past, and that history is still being viewed through rose colored glasses.

“The novel is ‘about white people within white culture making Tom Robinson’s life and death about themselves’ and that is precisely why it is a novel so beloved by the white literary community (Nichols).”

While Watchman has been called “a string of cliches,” it is perhaps the other way around (Gopnik). Mockingbird is filled with nothing but cliches as viewed through the naive eyes of a young Scout. Her father is a God-like entity who stands for goodness and faith in humanity, lynch mobs are filled with men who can be dissuaded by speaking with an innocent child, and mysterious strangers appear to save little girls and boys being attacked in the woods. While the book deals with heavy issues, the cliches are more than abundant. This book is loved so much because Atticus is a hero, and has even inspired people in the real world to become lawyers who will defend the innocent in court. Unfortunately the novel is “about white people within white culture making Tom Robinson’s life and death about themselves” and that is precisely why it is a novel so beloved by the white literary community (Nichols).

This adoration of such a racist novel and character is terrifying because “Atticus is canonized as the ultimate “good white person,” whose ostensible goodness hides the fact that they’re overly comfortable with the way racism has positively structured their life” (Nichols). Atticus himself, as a knowledgable man, may be attuned to this fact himself. Because he is a white male from a decent family, any racial cause he takes up within the white community of Maycomb will simply be “the blind leading the blind,” especially when it comes to the ways both he and Jean choose to approach the racial turmoil (Lee).

While both feel strongly about their approach to the changing social climate, neither seem to consider the perspective of the African Americans. It is continuously about how the changes will impact the white community, with no thought to the people at the center of the change. The racism of Atticus in Mockingbird has been articulated by scholars for decades, but the most common classroom lessons choose to ignore this perspective and instead continue to preach the valor of Atticus as a character (Marsh). This is detrimental not only to learning, but to the racial caste system of America.

“The racism of Atticus in Mockingbird has been articulated by scholars for decades.”

So Watchman being a rough draft, is everything that Mockingbird is, but lacking the hidden racism. Instead, it is blatantly racist and sexist. The present culture is too eager to accept white people as the champions of oppressed African Americans in the past when in fact “we can see why the civil rights movement in the United States had to be instigated and led by black people themselves” because even the most well-meaning white citizens were too complacent in their privilege to imagine the true revolution necessary to bring about equality (Smiley). Atticus remarks that “negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people,” echoing a more blunt sentiment he mentioned in Mockingbird when he portrays Tom Robinson as a strong negro man who was childlike in his innocence of the crime of rape (Lee). This shows that the racism throughout Watchman did not materialize from thin air, but just revealed the more sinister side of Mockingbird. 

Perhaps it is not Mockingbird itself which is frightening, but the response to it in the modern era. Very rarely will people criticize Atticus’ character in Mockingbird for being a racist, because the fear of backlash over this beloved novel is very real. As much as Atticus perpetuates the stigmas surrounding the black race in his defense of Tom Robinson, he voices them more clearly in Watchman when he explicitly denotes America as “our world”–a white world–and questions whether or not Jean really wants “Negroes by the carload in [their] schools and churches and theaters” (Lee). This is perhaps one of the most telling statements. While Atticus does not share the more extreme views of some of the South, he still feels that white dominance not only exists but is justified. Just as he is the ultimate father figure to Jean, he is also acts like a condescending father to the African American race. He does not find them capable of standing on even ground with white people.

“Very rarely will people criticize Atticus’ character in Mockingbird for being a racist, because the fear of backlash over this beloved novel is very real.”

Watchman is a cruel but necessary reality check for modern society. The paternalism that has permeated culture since the patriarchs of the great slave plantations still exists, and is apparent in the celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is an ethnocentric novel which suggests that white people must overcome the racial problems experienced by minority populations, and deliver them to a better life. Watchman reveals Atticus’ paternalism for what it really is–racism. And because so many people related personally to the seemingly altruistic actions of Atticus, they are now outraged by the idea that because he is racist, so are they. This willful ignorance is a sign of fear not only of admitting to the existing biases in society, but to the very changes the people of Maycomb county fear. The novel holds up a mirror to the face of the readers, and what people see inside is discomfiting because it shows how much work we still have to do as human beings to overcome ingrained prejudices and achieve true equality.

“This willful ignorance is a sign of fear not only of admitting to the existing biases in society, but to the very changes the people of Maycomb county fear.”

Regardless of the ambiguous beginnings of Watchman as a novel, it is important not to dismiss it, without taking into account how it forces us to reevaluate a novel deemed an American “classic” and purported throughout the nation to young and impressionable youths. Could the commonly taught analysis of that novel be subtly reinforcing institutionalized racism in America? If Watchman really is the first draft of the novel, then it does indeed suggest that for decades the subtlety of Mockingbird has been misconstrued, and Harper Lee’s true narrative glanced over.

Works Cited

Gopnik, Adam. “Sweet Home Alabama.” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 15 July 2015. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print., Harper. Go Set a Watchman. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.

Marsh, Laura. “These Scholars Have Been Pointing Out Atticus Finch’s Racism for Years.” New Republic. New Republic, 14 July 2015. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Nichols, Catherine. “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise.”Jezebel. Gizmodo Media Group, 20 July 2015. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Smiley, Jane. 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. New York: Knopf, 2005. Print.

Is Jean’s empathy self serving?

This is the question I was burdened with after reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Go Set a Watchman was initially written before, yet published after the Pulitzer Prize-Winning To Kill a Mockingbird. It is for this reason that many people viewed it as the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus is portrayed as a man of integrity, as a white man living in the South, he does the noble thing of defending a black man. In contrast, in Go Set Watchman Atticus is portrayed as a racist accomplished man . A man who believes that the black community is still in their “childhood” (Lee, 246). It is these views Atticus holds that invoke a variety of emotions in his daughter, Jean Louise Finch. Many readers can relate to Jean’s frustration because to them the only Atticus they know is the noble Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, which seems to be the same Atticus Jean remembers from her childhood. In Go Set a Watchman Harper Lee allows the reader to experience the racist culture in Maycomb with Jean. Initially upon reading Go Set a Watchman I strongly believed that Jean was empathetic to the black minority group but it was upon deeper analysis that I realized her anger could be manifesting because she feels betrayed and mislead by her father more than the fact that she believes in equality. I am going to look at her reaction to the racist behavior in her family as well as the direct interaction between her and the black community to examine her empathy. Ultimately, consider whether or not her emotions are driven by accurate empathy or could be deemed egocentric.

Firstly, Jean Louise expresses her “disgust” and confusion after the realization of the racist nature of her family and the Maycomb community. The feeling of disgust is presented when she stumbles upon and reads a pamphlet in her father’s house, “The Black Plague”. This pamphlet speaks about the black community’s inferiority. As the reader, I was immediately made aware of her opinion on the content in the pamphlet. It is said that, “when she was finished, she took the pamphlet by one of the corners, held it like she would a dead rat by the tail” (Lee, 102). Through the association of ideas, it is clear that the content of the pamphlet disgusted Jean. We tend to associate rats with filth and as a result, they evoke the feeling of disgust. Shortly after reading the pamphlet she is informed by her Aunt, Alexandra, that her father received the pamphlet from the Citizen’s Council where he is part of the board of directors (Lee,103). The Citizens Council was a group formed to oppose racial integration. This continues to fuel her feeling of disgust and disappointment. In disbelief, she decides to go to the meeting to see this for herself. Harper Lee uses irony to comment on the changes of Jean’s father. It is ironic that she watches the Citizen Council meeting in the balcony, the same position she witnessed her father defend a black man. The position where she was lead to believe that her father was an upright and moral man is the same place where she questions his moral standing. The use of irony confirms her confusion to the reader. How could her father have completely changed his beliefs? Not only did she experience internal discomfort she also experienced physical discomfort after this ordeal. Lee states, “every nerve in her body shrieked, then died. She was numb” in addition to this “her throat tightened” (111).

It was in the conversation between Jean and her father that it was made clear to me that Jean may be feeling more than just empathy for the black community, I started considering the fact that she was experiencing anger. Anger, not at the treatment of the black community but anger that she was brought up to believe that they deserved a chance by people who did not hold that view. Atticus asks Jean in their conversation about the black community, “do you want them in our world?” (Lee, 246). There are black people living in Maycomb but this question makes it clear that though they are physically present they do not coexist in the same “world”. According to Atticus, they do not deserve the same opportunities he has, they should not be exposed to the same resources and power he has. Atticus’s beliefs anger Jean mainly because her principles are based on Atticus’s teachings and now she does not seem to know what she believes and why she believes it. She tells him, “when you talked of justice you forgot to say that justice is something that has nothing to do with people” (Lee, 247). In the same conversation, she tells him to “use your blind, immoral, misguided, nigger-lovin’ daughter as an example. Go in front of me with a bell and say, ‘Unclean!’. Point me out as your mistake.” (Lee, 248).

Furthermore, the interaction Jean has with Calpurina’s family clearly indicate how ignorant Jean is to her own privileges and the way she conducts herself and reacts to Calpurnia border on insensitive, making the reader further question her empathy. After Jean offers her father’s services as well as whatever help she can give Calpurnia, Calpurnia does not respond, and Jean says to her, “Cal, Cal, Cal, what are you doing to me? What’s the matter? .. What are you doing to me?” (160). To which Calpurnia says, “what are you doing to us?” (160). The constant reference to oneself is a sign that she is insensitive to the situation, bearing in mind that Calpurnia’s family member could be going to jail. Instead, she finds in more important for Calpurnia to accept her help as opposed to being there for her and listening which is what we tend to define empathy as. In addition to this Harper Lee describes her thoughts after leaving Calpurina’s house. It is stated that, “Why is it that everything I have ever loved on this earth has gone away from me in two days time?.. She loved us, I swear she loved us. She sat there in front of me and she didn’t see me, she saw white folks” (161).

All these emotions Jean experiences resulted in a “wave of invective”, as Harper Lee describes it () . It is clear that Jean empathizes with the black community and desires a world where equal opportunities are given to all. However, there is another consideration to be made when looking into her empathy. It seems as though she is infuriated by the fact that her father made her believe that he was something that he is not. The betrayal she feels is not on behalf of the black community but it is for herself. She feels her father has done her a disservice by not teaching her his own views. Maybe Jean is too privileged to be able to understand what the black community is going through sufficiently enough to invoke accurate empathy from her. This is evident because more than she is empathetic to the black community she is upset with her family for essentially ‘misleading’ her. This then begs the question of whether or not this kind of moral standing (empathy) is still viable or does it become less effective because it becomes less about the people Jean believes deserve a chance and more about Jean and how she feels. But does that mean that Jean’s empathy is completely inaccurate? How much empathy is enough empathy?

Work Cited

Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. Harper Collins, 2015. Print.