Changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters

From To Kill A Mocking Bird to Go Set A Watchman, there are both continuities and changes within Atticus’s character. As it is portrayed in To Kill A Mocking Bird, Atticus’s persistence on defending Tom Robinson makes him a heroic figure. His pursue for justice, for color-blindness and for racial equality consolidates his character of fairness in Jean’s heart. However, the change of Atticus’s character from a supporter for racial equality to a backer of racial discrimination leaves great shock to both Jean Louise and readers. In Go Set A Watchman, Jean’s transition from anger to softness deserves readers’s thinking about the reason behind. And from my perspective, I believe the change of Jean’s referents shall account for why she failed to empathize with Atticus at start and softened in the end, becoming her own watchman. In my article, I am going to shed light on changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters and explain Jean’s transition.


Obviously, Atticus’s stance on the rights of the black changes significantly from To Kill A Mocking Bird to Go Set A Watchman, but his responsible role of father continues. In To Kill A Mocking Bird, Atticus defends Tom Robinson by declaring, “In courts, all we are legally equal.” Although Tom Robinson was finally died of racial discrimination, Atticus’s spirit of searching for justice and equality, in the eye of little Jean Louis, was admirable and irreplaceable. After thirty years, however, Atticus was no more the one rooted in Jean memory, the sparkling figure to fight against racists. I see compromises, instead of perseverance as it used to be, in his standpoint on racial equality. His action of attending Citizen’s Council and opposing the efforts of NAACP, though Hank explains the motive as advocating changes from within, reveals concessions to me. Atticus changes from one who explicitly supports racial equality to one who learns to give in faced with big social trend. Yet, Atticus remains a responsible father, who taught his daughter to learn about the flawed nature of humans, and to live on the basis of her own conscience. As Jean grows, her cognition of the world starts to become independent, but not of his father’s deep influence in her heart. Atticus broke the image of a perfect father by showing that he is also flawed. Though the author did not make it clear eventually whether Atticus intentionally allows Jean Louise to misunderstand his own views about race in order to encourage her to think for herself, Atticus’s role of father deserves our respect, which is also the continuity I spot.

Empathy’s dependence on referents in mind

Meanwhile, Jean’s transition is also something worth readers’ reflections. Since empathizer can never directly know what the object is thinking about, he only infers the object’s inner state. Along the process of inference, the empathizer will find a referent that is reasonably similar to those he observed in the object. Specifically, when she returned from New York, her referent of her father was still the rooted figure who pursues racial equality and color-blindness remains in her heart. Such kind of referent differs greatly from what she observes Atticus to be, the one who backs color-difference and opposes the efforts of NAACP, which leads to her failure of empathy, further constitutes her anger. However, as time passes on, she gradually find that the admirable roles in her heart, Uncle Jack and Atticus, are revealed to be not the perfect ones as she expected them to be, or in other words, not the same as the referent in her heart. Atticus does share some thoughts of a racist. Jack is not as mild as she thought who hit her almost to pass out. It was not until the end of the novel when Jean accepts all these and her referent gets changed. With a new referent, she begins to empathize with Atticus again, but this time she learns to be the watchman of herself.  This means she is mature enough to live from her own consciousness, separated from the ethics of the world around. This also ends the rooted influence of her father Atticus, the long held perfect role since childhood.


Works Cited

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

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

Explanation for Jean Louise’s response

In the novel Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, twenty six year old Jean Louise returns to her hometown from New York City to visit her father Atticus, who she looks up to throughout her entire childhood. She finds out that Atticus have changed into a racist. Atticus is shaped as a lawyer who solidly pursues justice in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird. However, in Go Set a Watchman, he turned out to be a person who goes to the city council and thinks that black people do not deserve the same civil rights as white people do. Jean’s initial reaction is contempt and shocked, which is shown clearly in the book: “She felt sick. Her stomach shut, she began to tremble. Every nerve in her body shrieked, then died. She was numb. (Go Set a Watchman 111)” But by the end of the novel after she had a conversation with Dr. Finch, Jean’s attitude towards Atticus becomes less aggressive. In this passage I am going to examine the Jean’s response to her father.

The reasons for Jean Louise to feel angry are easy to understand. She has been looking up to her father at a very young age. His defense of the condemned African American male Tom Robinson makes Jean feel that he is a just man who treats people from different races equally. He even guards Tom from the mob on the day before the trail (TKMB). She always considers her father as a role model, as the book mentions: “She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, ‘What would Atticus do?’ passed through her unconscious. (Go Set a Watchman 117)” It is such high expectation of her father that makes Jean so mad when she finds her father at racist citizen council. By the end of the book, however, her madness subsides dramatically. To understand this transition of emotion, we need to analyze her conversation with Dr. Finch, after he slaps her in the face. Jean Louise finds everything suddenly become “bearable” (Go Set a Watchman 264). Dr. Finch explains to her that this is “because you are your own person now.” (Go Set a Watchman 264) He tells Jean “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.” (Go Set a Watchman 265) This rational argument makes Jean lower her guard towards Dr. Finch, and start to accept his points. Then, he says Atticus should not be viewed as God. Atticus is a man with a man’s failings, so she has to stop expecting him to always have the same answers as she does (Go Set a Watchman 265). He also mentions that Atticus always follows the spirit of law, which partially explains his participation of citizen council. Jean’s change in her perception of her father can be seen in the text. “I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy—-it’s a matter of balance.” (Go Set a Watchman 277) Jean is finally able to feel her father’s good intension for her, indicating that she starts to empathize with her father.

Considering all above, Jean’s reaction is not so hard to interpret anymore. She finally accepts the fact that Atticus has his own flaws, and she has to be an independent person. So she stops looking up to her father. Once she starts to view her father as another human being, she lowers her expectation for him. She starts to generate empathetic feeling for her father. Therefore her anger subsides.


Works cited:

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, HarperCollins, 2015

Mulligan, Robert, director. To Kill a Mockingbird, Universal International Pictures, 1963



Review about “Go Set A Watchman”

Everybody has their own sense of fairness and justice. In Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman”, Atticus’s character seems to be different a lot from his glory character in “To kill a Mocking bird”, Harper Lee’s another famous novel. In “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, Atticus undauntedly defend an innocent black man who was be charged the crime of rape. However, in “Go Set a Watchman”, Atticus’s impression of a heroic defender racial equality has been override by his attendance to the white-people-council and opinion of encouraging race segregation. This major diverge of Atticus’s attitude toward race has caused her daughter, also the protagonist of “Go Set a Watchman” to frustratingly confuse and, at the first time, realize her own sense of an independent human being.


First and foremost, I would like to talk about Atticus. There is, seemingly, a major gap between Atticus’s attitude toward black people in “To kill a Mocking bird” and “Go set a watchman”. Some states that Atticus’s attitude indeed change rapidly because there is a big time gap between Atticus; other people would like to say that, Atticus is racist from the very beginning and probably because of the sick that he suffers in “Go Set a Watchman”, he reveals his true self when his old. From my perspective, I would like to say that Atticus’s character is consistence in two novels but I would still not consider him a racist. Although it seems to be a major change in his attitude toward black people, at least one virtual within him does not change: his pursuit for fairness. Therefore, this pursuit of fairness drove him to defend the innocent colored man. Beside, also thanks to this pursuit of justice, he holds the view that it is improper for the colored men, who are rude, uneducated and lazy to live with the superior white people. This might sound a bit erratic. However, it makes sense when we take the living environment of Atticus into account. Atticus grown up and lives in a southern respectful white family. In this environment, no matter members in his family or in his whore neighborhood are all sending him the same massage that white people is superior and segregation is good for the development of the whole community. Hence, it is clear that because Atticus takes the segregation as fair, his decision to encourage segregation has not thing to do with racism.


What’s more, the protagonist, Jean Louise, in the novel does not seem to be so impeccable as the author describe to be. The most outstanding point is when she talks with her uncle she said that there are no reasons for her to marry a negro who is not her own kind. Without doubt, Jean Louise is not as “color blinded” as she considers her to be. Moreover, she seems to be the people who would react drastically when people disagree with her. Although she is same as her father who persist to follow their own sense of justice, this shortcoming would cause her incapability to empathize other who disagree with her.  This might be part of the reason why Atticus seems to change so rapidly in “Go Set a Watchman”. It is partly because the whole novel is written based on Jean Louise perspective and the mental description of her is so skew to the side that Atticus is a racist.



Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, NY, 2015.


Does Atticus Finch change and if yes, how does his daughter forgive him?

In the movie, “To kill a mocking bird” from the book “To kill a mocking bird” by Harper Lee, we are given good reasons to believe that the character Atticus Finch -the father of Scout and Jem- is a very good man who believes in equality between blacks and whites. Scout loves her father very much and she looks up to him because of his good heart that lead him to defend Tom Robinson (black) accused of raping a white woman. However, in the following novel “Go set a Watch man” by Harper Lee, Atticus changes into a racist man. Scout who has now grown into a young woman (now called her real name Jean Louise) is chocked -as some of the readers- to discover that her father joined a racist council. Jean Louise has a hard time believing that someone she has looked up to all her life could break her trust. She is overwhelmed by this disappointment that she plans to leave May comb (her home town). Surprisingly, she forgives her father and decides to stay.

The admirable personality of Atticus Finch in “To kill a Mocking bird”, is not only emphasized by the fact that he loves his children very much but also by his agreement to defend Tom in the court. He believes that Tom is innocent and so decides to defend him though he is black. His beliefs of race are mostly portrayed in his closing remarks in the court. Atticus says: “Evil assumption that all Negroes lie, all Negroes are basically immoral beings and should not be trusted with our women; an assumption associated with minds of their caliber” (1:36:02-1:36:21 TK). This shows that he thinks that black men aren’t what they are assumed to be and that whoever believes those assumptions is evil. He also says “All men are created equal” (1:37:30: 1:37:40 TK) showing that he believes no man is superior to another. To our biggest surprise, in the novel “Go set a watch man”, Atticus finch becomes a member of a racist council in Maycomb. He also makes racist comments when he was arguing with Jean Louise, he says “White is White and Black is Black” (Go set a watchman P 246). Atticus also asserts “Honey, do you not understand that the negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people? They have made terrific progress in adapting themselves to white ways but they are far from it yet” (Go set a watch man P 246). The same man who once affirmed that all men are equal is now referring to a population as children like. Also, by saying that they have made progress to adapting white ways, he assumes that white ways are superior to black ways of living. I can’t necessarily assert what led him to change but due to the above, I am convinced that he was once good and but changed later.

The reaction to this sudden change in her father makes Jean Louise very sad and disappointed. After having a long fight with her father while she expresses how angry she was at him (Go set a watch man P 236-253), Jean Louise decides to leave Maycomb. Jean Louise thinks that there is no place for her in a society where people are racists. However, we are surprised to find out that she finally decides to stay in Maycomb after her uncle Jack (Atticus’s brother) slaps her. This brings a confusion from the reader’s perspective because the reasons to why she has finally decided to stay aren’t clear. I believe that Jean Louise’s decision to stay was right though I am given no reason to why she chooses to stay. Just like her uncle Jack told her “the woods are full of people like you, but we need more of you” I believe that Maycomb needs her to bring the change she wants to see (P272). Jack also says to her “the time your friends need you is when they are wrong; they don’t need you when they are right” (P273). Running away from the people she has ever loved, would have made Jean Louise a coward- running away from one’s problems rather than trying to solve them. I also think that though Atticus disappointed her, he has loved and taken care of her all her life. Hence as her father, he deserves to be forgiven. I therefore support Jean Louise’s decision to stay.


Work cited:

To kill a Mocking Bird. Directed by Robert Mulligan.

Universal Pictures.1962

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.


Had Atticus Changed Between “Watchman” and “Mockingbird”?

As for the second and the last novel of Harper Lee, “Go Set a Watchman” was released on July 14th, 2016 and immediately became best-selling novel in America. Though “Go Set a Watchman” was widely considered as the continuation of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which is one of the most popular novel in America and was once considered as “The novel that can best represent the United States”, it is obvious to most readers that the Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman was greatly different from the man in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. In To Kill a Mockingbird, readers regarded Atticus as the hero because he fought all hindrance to defend Tom Robinson, who was slandered that he had raped a white woman. However, Atticus, in “Go Set a Watchman”, became a totally racist who could say “Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people (Negros) living among people advance (White people) in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia” (Harper, Watchman 242). Many readers considered the change of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman is “abrupt”, “impossible” and “unacceptable”. However, I think that Atticus may had never changed, it was us that thought Atticus wrong in the first place.

It is not hard for us to find that Atticus, throughout both stories, was a competent attorney and regarded the law as the highest authority on earth. As a lawyer, Atticus considered everything logically, when talking about living with blacks, though Atticus know that the integration process of America cannot be avoid, still he thought blacks would violate his interests, so he interrogated 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 Arcaida?” Nonetheless, if we go back to “To Kill a Mockingbird”, we could easily find that Atticus’s attitude to Africa-Americans had never changed, in “Mockingbird”, Finch described black people as “Mockingbird”, which indicated that blacks are innocent but also ignorant. Also, his believed that only white people could save these “Negros” and even in “Mockingbird”, we could find that he did not treated Calpurnia, who was a black housemaid in Finch’s family, equally and usually talk with Calpurnia in a jussive tone. Moreover, in Atticus’s defending statement of Tom Robinson, the way he constructed his sentence also showed that what he believed was not equality, but the objective justice: “We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe—some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they’re born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cake than others—some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men” (Lee, Mockingbird 276) and “there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man equal of an Einstein, and an ignorant man equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honorable court which you serve” (Lee, Mockingbird 277). No one could contradict that Atticus was not a good attorney. However, he may not be considered as a totally non-raciest in both novel. Catherine Nichols, in her essay “Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise” posted on Jezebel also mentioned: “In many ways, Atticus’s subtle racism in Mockingbird is the story’s brilliance. Go Set a Watchman, in comparison, is unsubtle—but its passion and roughness are its charm. Where Mockingbird is polite, Watchman is rude. And Maycomb deserves some rudeness” (Nichols), which also states that Atticus may had been a racist in “Mockingbird”, and what he did was just showed his true color in “Go Set a Watchman”.

In conclusion, Atticus Finch’s “change” in “Go Set a Watchman” should never be a surprise for us readers because we could easily find some Atticus’ racial discourse and actions in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”. Because we, as well as Jean Louise” chose to ignore Atticus’ racist nature, we considered Atticus as a hero, a brave individual who tried to fight against inequality. Nonetheless, as Nichols says in her passage, “The truth is that he never meant to” (Nichols).


Work Cited

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

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

Catherine, Nichols. Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise, Jezebel. Link:

Atticus is not a racist in Go set a watchman

The closing argument Atticus Finch made in ‘to kill a mocking bird’ impressed generations of people and made him a hero in American history. So it is surprise and even unacceptable, to most of people, including me, that he seems to become a racist by attending a Klan meeting in Go set a watchman. However, after reading the whole book, I changed my mind. Many people may see substantial change in Atticus character, from a hero to a racist, but I see continuity in his character that he is still pursuing his justice and still holding his responsibility towards Maycomb people. People who think Atticus becomes a racist is simply shocked so much by seeing his abnormal behavior and lost the ability to relate the action to the fact that he used to help a Black people get out of a rape charge. At this point, they formed pseudo empathy towards Atticus and misinterpret his motive of such behavior.

As he said to Jean Louis,’ Jefferson believed full citizenship was a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly nor to be taken lightly. A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man, In Jefferson’s eye. He had to be a responsible man.’ (GSAW) This is what he believed, and what he held as justice in his heart all the time. However, the NAACP came over one day and simply demands their right to vote. To Atticus, they are not trying to earn their right to vote, instead, they are trying to take it without any effort by simply demanding, which is intolerable and contradict his belief of justice. Segregation is by no means fair to Negro people and is certainly injustice, but it truly happened in history, so at that time it is true that most of the Negro people are uneducated and therefore are not able to perform full citizenship as Jefferson said. In Atticus’s mind, their first job to recover from the damage caused by segregation should be to work hard to first become a well-educated, responsible man rather than asking to vote while not capable and eligible.

Because of the historical reasons, People tend to get very sensitive when it comes to black and white problems, and is easy to criticize Atticus for being a racist as he acts against the Black’s ‘simple’ demand. However, I think to Atticus their demand is by no means ‘simple’, instead, it is unacceptable and outrageous because he views the rights to vote very seriously and sacredly. By resenting NAACP people, He is not trying to draw a line between Black and White, but a line between a well-educated man who is responsible for himself and the society and a man who is uneducated and can’t mind his own business. Both white and black can be well-educated and responsible or uneducated and irresponsible, and I think Atticus is definitely open to work with Negro people who are qualified to vote and made good decisions for people.

But as far as I see from the description of the book, the NAACP people made fancy demands of full-citizenship and right to votes when they have not proved their ability to make rational decisions. ‘they doesn’t care whether a Negro man owns or rent his land, how well he can farm or whether or not he tries to learn a trade and stand on his own two feet –oh no, all the NAACP cares about is that man’s vote.’(GSAW) I think Atticus is not blaming NAACP for not being qualified, as it will be ridiculous to blame victims for getting hurt. He is blaming them for being over-ambitious and demanding a free- lunch without putting any effort into it, and that they are using the racial prejudice they received as an good excuse for doing that.

Of course, Atticus could have chosen to welcome them and show he is not a racist, but it would be irresponsible to people in Maycomb and contradict the justice he believed in heart. So at the risk of being called a racist and misunderstood by her daughter, he chose to stand out and stop them. From this I can also see that he values his responsibility to people in Maycomb more than his own fame, which corresponds to the ‘Atticus’ I know from ‘To kill a mocking bird’.

Though I’m making this argument, the book ‘go set a watchman’ still make some ambiguous suggestions that make people think Atticus as a racist, and caused the collapse of a childhood idol. When I was searching for the book, I find a very interesting comment and I think correspond to my thoughts about this book: ‘For all I know, Go Set a Watchman is a brilliant piece of fiction. So I won’t criticize the novel itself. But nor will I read it… unless they release it in comic book form and add Batman into the story. I’m just not that interested.’ Because when it comes to the Atticus Finch, I already read everything I needed to read. ’( Miller)

Work cited:

Miller, galanty. ‘Atticus Finch Is Not a Racist’.2015, Facebook

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

Empathy and Connection: What Lead to Lack of Empathy in Go Set a Watchman

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in Movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in Movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

Harper Lee, in her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, displayed a paragon of a kind and honorable person, whom everybody admired as a father, as a lawyer and as a friend and who we know by the name of Atticus Finch. His final speech for the defense of Tom Robinson inspired generations of lawyers and illustrated his aspiration towards justice and fairness. Atticus was a person, whom his children and we, the readers and viewers, looked up to as an ideal father and impeccable man. Therefore, it was a huge surprise and shock for Jean, his daughter, and for us, the readers, to witness a new face of Atticus Finch, a face of a racist man, in Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman.” A man we once admired for his idealistic views, justice and color blindness now said nonsenses such as “do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” (Lee, 245). A man that once inspired us to act with fairness and taught us that “all men are created equal”, now seemed to be a typical white southern citizen of the 1950’s (TKAM). Seeing the new face of Atticus Finch confuses both Jean Louise and us, the readers, which leads to the following questions: Did Atticus’s character and world-view truly change? Or did we overlook Atticus’s racist nature in “To Kill a Mockingbird?” Or are we overlooking his real identity in both novels?

After analyzing both novels, I believe that Atticus Finch, as described by Harper Lee, did not change significantly between those two novels. From my perspective, Atticus’s real face is a face of man who believes in justice, a justice that is universal and a justice that does not have a race. However, he still looks at the people based on their race and is not as color-blind as Jean Louise. In “Go Set a Watchman”, Atticus discusses that even though he is convinced that “white is white and black is black”, he is “still open to suggestion”, which illustrates that his view on race was based on the situation in south, which forced white people to be racists in order to fit into the society (Lee, 246). From my point of view, we, the viewers and readers, and Scout were presented with an idealized face of Atticus in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, prompting us to overlook his real identity. The acts of fairness that Atticus displayed in Jean’s childhood were mostly due to his admiration towards justice and were not promoted by his color blindness. On the other hand, the face of Atticus that is displayed in “Go Set a Watchman” is also inaccurate interpretation of his character. In this novel, Atticus is displayed as an evil person and is even compared to Hitler by his daughter. The fact that Atticus, who has never given “some hint” of his racist nature, who has never broken his word and who has never been “bad-tempered and impatient” towards his daughter, was not as ideal as we have always seen and admired him for being, was such a huge shock for us that we suddenly stopped empathizing and understanding him (Lee, 250). Because we could not see that ideal Atticus any more, we did not want to try to understand who Atticus really was and why he was acting in that particular fashion. We could not see that he was the same person as he was twenty years ago, with the same aspiration towards justice which uncle Jack reminds Jean of by saying “don’t you know who’d be the first to try and stop” the Klan if it starts bombing and beating people (Lee, 268). Since we cannot see the ideal Atticus that we were used to seeing, we are overlooking and over-exaggerating the values that he stands for. The reason behind the illusion of dramatic change is facing the real face, of a once ideal, flawless man, whom we always admired, and realizing that person whom we always looked up to is not as perfect and as impeccable as we always though him of. The reason behind the disappointment that Color BlindnessAtticus’s new face caused in millions of readers and Jean Louise as well, stemmed from looking at a man in two radically different ways – first as an ideal and honorable man and later as a racist and evil man, overlooking his real identity, the identity of man who believed in justice, but was also never color-blind.

Understanding the different ways we are presented with Atticus Finch in the novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman”, we can analyze what led to the limitation of understanding between Jean Louise and her father. The reason behind the lack of empathy that Scout experienced was that all the years she spent in New York led to the loss of identification between her, her father and city of Maycomb. The conversation with uncle Jack helped her to partially restore the connection, which made her more capable to empathizing with her father and led her to forgiving him.

Work Cited:

  • “A Time to Kill”. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Bros. 1996.
  • Lee, Harper. “Go Set a Watchman”. HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2015.

Image Sources:

Atticus Finch Always Stays the Same.

To many the story of To Kill a Mockingbird demonstrates an upstanding lawyer Atticus Finch honestly defends for all people who are in need of help regardless of any prejudice(TKM). The story stands as a milestone of people fighting for eliminating racial discrimination. As for Go Set a Watchman it continues the story of To Kill a Mockingbird but it tells more from Jean Louise Finch’s,Atticus Finch’s daughter, perspective. Interestingly, many people have found out after reading Go Set a Watchman that there seem to be some major changes in Atticus Finch’s values and his upright points of view toward racial issues. From my perspective, though Atticus Finch casts a lot of unsound comments on African-Americans in the argue with his daughter at the near end of Go Set a Watchman, Atticus’s reasons and empathy inside his heart has never changed(236-253).

I’ll start by discussing the seemingly changes happened to Atticus in the book Go Set a Watchman. Back when Jean Louise was still a little girl her father defended without hesitation for a Black man suffered from the bias that could kill him. Though the black man was still framed to death after Atticus’s appealing and reasonable final statement, Jean Louise saw the whole thing and regarded her father as a hero for defending the weak, and she also remembered the sentence “equal rights for all, special rights for none” which affects her whole life(TKM). But in Go Set a Watchman we find out that Atticus not only attends the citizen’s council which aims to prevent African-Americans from getting certain rights, but also explains his action as attending the council to protect the White’s last defense against Negro’s invasions. Atticus explains himself by claiming Black people do not have the right to earn their rights because they are not only backward but also unable to control themselves(237-243). The words like “backward” and “invasions” and Atticus’s claim makes Jean Louise as well as us shocked, shocked about how a previous honest to god righteous person who believes everyone is equal turns into a seemingly prejudicial person who would express racist’s comment like categorizing some people as “sub-people”(GSW 242). Though his comments and terminology conflict with the previous Atticus’s in To Kill a Mockingbird, I’d say his empathy toward African-Americans has never changed. In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus understands the unfair situation the Blacks are in and decides to do something to help, this empathy enables Atticus to stands out and challenge the overwhelming racial discrimination at the time. It makes him do something “right” for the Black(TKM). In Go Set a Watchman, however, Atticus’s understanding toward the Black provides a fair and true(though not sounds good) profile about the Black. Though his actions may seem unreasonable, knowing these facts about the Black urges him do something “right” for the County(GSW).

Personally speaking, the reason why Atticus does all these seemingly racial discriminating actions is that he starts to consider the situation from a new perspective, which is the development of Maycomb County. Atticus’s comments on Black are harsh but those are the ugly truth, and Atticus’s opinions of preventing Blacks from voting or ruling are mean but they are true because the Black are just not responsible or educated enough for those duties at that time(GSW 243). Atticus’s precise insight and understanding toward the Black keep Maycomb County functioning and developing in good order which, in turn, provides everybody including every African-American living in it a better life. So Atticus’s terminology may change overtime, but his empathy toward the Black has never changed.

Jean Louise softens her view at last for her father makes her see that this is what Maycomb needs(GSW 278). I do as well because it takes me the same long time to understand how a great man possesses and persists along a faith inside his heart, even though he might be misunderstood at the surface, even by his loved ones.


Work Cited:

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, NY, 2015. 236-253.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Directed by Robert Mulligan, Performances by George Peck,Mary Badham,Phillip Alford, Universal International, 1962.

A Watchman of Jean’s Conscience

A widely-known novelist Nelle Harper Lee wrote a dramatic character called “Atticus Finch” in her two eminent novels, “Go Set a Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”. “Go Set a Watchman” was written before “To Kill a Mockingbird” during the time when white supremacists prevail but was published 55 years afterward. Plenty of readers contend that there is a considerably self-contradictory convert in the main character Atticus. Whereas from my perspective, the character himself doesn’t change, however, the way that the readers and Jean Louise perceive and understand Atticus changes since the author presents a more complicated and complete Atticus from Jean’s sight in “Go Set a Watchman” than in “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

In Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Atticus used to be a paradigm of anti-segregation and anti-discrimination, an emblem of courage to fight against the whole white-dominant society and a role model of all attorneys with plenty of wisdom and empathy, while in “Go Set a Watchman”, he becomes a member of the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council, a scorner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) and a believer who insist that a large percentage of rights obtained by blacks will devastate social order. Even one time he says that “Can you blame the South for wanting to resist an invasion by people who are apparently so ashamed of their race they want to get rid of it?” (GSW247)

When Jean Louise finds out the other side of her father gradually, she doubts about Atticus’s credibility and disappoints about his negotiated viewpoints toward discrimination and segregation at the beginning. And then Jean’s discontent is exaggerated since Atticus adopts some of the racial opinions from the community. Eventually, Jean arouses a conflict with Atticus and starts packing to run away from her family after driving back to home. Jean reacts crazy and irrationally to the people she feels uncomfortable of due to the contrary notions they hold, including her uncle Jack. She yells to Jack insanely and Jack slaps on her face to stop her, making her bleed and almost pass out. It can be seen that this action taken by Jack leads to a beneficial outcome: Jean stops being a bigot that resists everyone who has different attitude from her and starts to meditate her father and herself as separate and independent figures. The author uses Jack’s mouth to induce her meaning of “Go Set a Watchman”: “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.” (GSW 265) Indeed, Jean Louise cannot accept the change of Atticus because she thinks Atticus should be her guide and alliance continuously. Jean still relies on her father’s belief; thus when the original conviction of Atticus changes into a mature and “flawed” conscience but there is no development of Jean, Jean’s primitive faith in her father collapses.

Before reading Jack’s speaking, I have a potential sense to the following passages that there will be a mental struggle of Jean between her love of her father who raises her up and her adamant even radical antipathy with his father’s prejudice. Since Jean Louise can only understand and accept part of her father’s conviction and actions, the part she agrees and connects herself with, her empathy toward Atticus is more self-focused and tendentious. Without completely understanding, the partial empathy becomes useless and even harmful because in other way, this segmental empathy actually represents the limitations of empathy. Thus, Jean’s evaluation of Atticus’s value merely based on her former impression of Atticus instead of fully standing in her father’s shoes and being “other-focused” eventually gives rise to the grief, conflicts and uncomfortable relationship between jean and her beloved people.

Moreover, after understanding Jack’s words, I comprehend there is no ambivalence in her acceptance or rejection of her father. The question Jean should really reconsider is if she can be independent of her father, if she can take her own responsibility of the position she stands for and build up her own conscience, and if she can acknowledge that there is no perfect paradigm in the world included herself. The author here wants Jean and readers to understand that imperfection here enables everyone to become a complex person with multiple moral concepts. We need to set up our own conscience and have courage of being responsible for the consequence when persisting on our own choices. There is no need to dismiss or despise someone who disagree with us.

Although there is lack of elaboration on how Jean realizes that she is also an imperfect identity and her father ‘s eager to support and listen to her viewpoints rather than reject her and stop loving her, it is apparent that Jean develops to a mature and self-conscious woman and chooses to enlarge her scope of empathy to accurately understand her father. For instance, in the end of the book she says “I think I love you very much.” (GSW 278) to her father. Adding the word “I think” makes the love integrated. Jean is not the little girl who merely admires her father and relies on her father’s faith anymore. Acknowledging that empathy should be both“self-focused” and “other-focused”, she develops to an actual adult who can be responsible of her own conscience and can respect other’s conscience indeed.




Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015, P1-P280



Demeaning words online–Exaggerated empathy’s limitation protected by anonymous mask

As  the development of digital age moves forward, social media is becoming a new tool of information deliverer. Compared to traditional style of information dissemination such as letters or talks face-to face, social media is more convenient and instant considering its public transparency and accessibility. Also, people are able to give quick response towards hot issues that have raised wide-spread concern. However, affected by in-group preference of empathy and “mask protection” provided by virtual world, people may make hostile and extreme reactions on social media.


People’s comments on Mack Horton

As a notable example of this, people’s response to Mack Horton’s rude remarks on
Sun Yang in Rio Olympic deserves our attention. According to
Global Times, “Hours before the game, Horton called Sun a “drug cheat,” and in an interview after the game, he defended his accusation that Sun was a drug user”. Almost instantly, people’s outrage, especially those from Sun Yang’s fans are poured in Horton’s Instagram, leading to over 500,000 comments to condemn his loss of Olympic spirits. People are requesting Horton’s apology towards Sun Yang while some insults Horton’s as a “dead man”. ABC News also writes an article titled as “Gold medal winner Mack Horton trolled online after calling out ‘drug cheat’ Sun Yang” to describe such kind of responses from social media. As pointed out, “Chinese fans have taken the grudge match into their own hands, attacking Horton on his various social media accounts using the hashtag #apologizetosunyang”. However, the truth behind Sun Yang’s positive test is, according to Global Times, “He was using a medication for his heart problem, but unfortunately, it contained a substance which had just been banned as a new type of stimulant” while related departments have not updated that rule. So, on one hand, Mack was not lying based on the existing fact two years ago. On the other hand, Sun should not be labelled as drug cheat since he did not take banned medicine for this game.


Cyber bullying on social media

While reasoning works fine for both sides, why do some people react so extremely on social media with demeaning wor
ds? To illustrate, from my perspective, there are two reasons. To begin with, the in-group preference of empathy, I think, contributes mostly to people’s anger towards Mack. Most of Sun’s fans are from China. When it’s not clear either side is right, people tend to choose the “familiar group” for empathy. As Fuchsman, Ken indicated, “Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us’”.  At the same time, the anonymous identity on social media somehow removes some of people’s misgivings for posting extreme comments. This means, they realized that in most cases, they don’t have to pay for what they have said on social media. My opinion is shared by Ellie Lisitsa whose instance is that “They don’t have to feel the other person’s tension or convey their own. They don’t have to suppress it or deal with it in any way”. This mask provides people with a hide of themselves so that they can remove the barrier which they tend to have in face-to-face real life. And then as Ellie Lisitsa emphasized, “A sense of right and wrong, responsibility for one’s actions, can easily vanish.” What’s more, as explained by L. Mark Carrier, “The lack of nonverbal cues in the online world contributes to overall lower levels of virtual empathy compared to the real world”, which leads to excessive empathy for Sun and deficient empathy for Horton.

Work cited:

Ronson, Jon. “God That Was Awesome.” So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Riverhead Books, 2015 67-90

Fuchsman, Ken. “Empathy and Humanity.” The Journal of psychohistory, vol. 42, no. 3, 2015., pp. 176.

L. Mark Carrier, “Virtual empathy: Positive and negative impacts of going online upon empathy in young adults”

Ellie Lisitsa, “The Digital Age: Empathy In Utopia” November 22, 2013,

ABC News Site, “Rio 2016: Gold medal winner Mack Horton trolled online after calling out ‘drug cheat’ Sun Yang”,

Global Times, “Horton displays no goodwill in remarks over his rival”,

The video of Horton’s remark on Sun Yang:

The picture of Mack Horton’s post and people’s reactions:’s-instagram-is-trolled-by-angry-chinese-users/7698766