Please be advised that there are probably spoilers ahead. Thank you!
When I first heard that Harper Lee’s first work, titled Go Set a Watchman, would finally be published this summer, I didn’t quite know how to feel. I was simultaneously intrigued, ecstatic, skeptical, and even slightly saddened. Lee had become charmingly enigmatic after publishing one of my absolute favorite books To Kill a Mockingbird and this seemed almost like an exploitation of an elderly woman in failing health to sell books. I thought she had preferred her life shrouded in secrecy and so I was hesitant at first to pick up the book. My inner literary nerd’s curiosity however, got the better of me. I had to have it.
I had always seen a bit of myself in Scout–as an adult known by her given name Jean Louise. She didn’t take to all of the feminine charms in life, loved being just “one of the boys” and railed against ideas that she had to be prissy and girly. I did as long as I could (and still do at times).
In Watchman, Jean Louise returns to Maycomb after spending time in New York City (a place I personally despise–but that’s a story for another post). She’s found her father in failing health and participating in activities that she does not approve of. (If you’ve seen any of the CNN/large media coverage of this book, you probably know what these are.) The town and county she grew up in are not at all what she thought they were; and there was no longer a place for her there.
This version of Jean Louise, of my beloved Scout, is so much like me I cried. I too, have returned to my hometown, my home county, to find that much of it has changed. Much of what is there for me is not what I thought it was after spending time out in the big city; out on my own. People have changed, people have left, new things have entered that I’m not even entirely sure I like.
Jean Louise returns at the age of 26–three years my elder. She is forced to become her own person, to see things the way they really are, and have her faith and her loyalty questioned.
I loved that she was so strong; she was well-written and she held her identity and the characteristics that I loved about her in Mockingbird. I love the characters that evolve, but don’t truly change. I love the characters that are able to grow and yet maintain the characteristics that make them unique and make them the characters that they are.
I’m still trying to get all my thoughts together on the book as a whole, but Scout was my favorite part–and helped me understand that it’s truly okay to have left home, but always remember what I came from.