I won’t be rushing out for a copy of Go Set A Watchman. If Miss Lee herself held a press conference, looked the camera in the eye and stated clearly, “Yes, I changed my mind about never wanting this manuscript published,” I’d likely feel more enthusiastic about her literary ‘come back’. I’ve yet to see that press conference.
Instead, I will be giving To Kill A Mockingbird another read. I didn’t leave that first read with a sentimentality for old Atticus, nor with a rose-colored view of his time and place. I finished the last page with the understanding that this story was told from the point of view of a child confused by the world around her, as the great gentle beacon that was her father often confused her throughout the span of this story.
I would like to revisit this story, just to make certain that my thoughts on it now are just as they were when I closed it up the last time. Back then I didn’t keep notes of what I read. So, it’s possible that memory has fudged a bit. Possible, but the write up on Go Set A Watchman in The New York Times seemed to rattle loose a few ideas that settled in my mind almost a decade ago — the idea that Atticus was first and foremost an educated, war-worn, and utterly frightened father, frequently alternating between speaking to his children on an intellectual level, expecting a lot for their tender years, and shielding them from as much real world negativity as possible. How then might Atticus speak to his daughter when she is an adult? Would he honestly divulge his opinions, or still do that gangly shuffle around pointed questions? And what might the adult Scout’s reaction be?
In the July 10th edition of The New York Times’ Review of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, Michiko Kakutani discusses the narrator’s age difference since Mockingbird, the tumultuous events of the 60s, the shock that narrator experiences when her dearest ones’ voice derisive opinions, as well as the author’s obvious struggle (and failure) to convey what ideals floundered for attention within the gray areas of those stark lines drawn on either side of that era’s greatest conflict. And therein might lie the reason Lee didn’t rush to publish this manuscript forty years ago — those gray areas can harbor a great many problems for an author who, perhaps, wasn’t striving for sympathy from readers outside southern borders, but her own understanding, her own place in the midst of it all.
Regardless, I feel it necessary to revisit To Kill A Mockingbird, if for no other reason than to test my own memory. What are y’all reading this week?
3 thoughts on “Starting Tomorrow: A Blog Post About Revisiting To Kill A Mockingbird”
I relate to a lot of what you have said – I just decided to re-read Mockingbird this week, because I want to reacquaint myself not so much with the book but with my own views when I first read it nearly 20 years ago. I did enjoy it, and I did warm to the characters – but I remember wondering about Atticus, what did he really think about race? He was ambiguous at best – Harper Lee’s skill was in convincing readers to see Atticus as Scout had seen him, a hero, and to dismiss the very ambiguity that was actually pretty clear on the page.
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I’m glad to have someone reading along 🙂 And yes, Atticus is very much portrayed through Scout’s young eyes. Let’s compare notes after the reading again, shall we?
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Certainly! That would be great.