Much has been said, written, and no doubt thought about Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Much of it has been disparaging, and of that, not a small number of these negative remarks have been from people who have not read the book. (Go figure.)

Well, I just finished it. And yes, while it’s true that it’s not up to the caliber of To Kill a Mockingbird (after all, very few things are), it’s still one fine piece of writing.

Please hear me out; I promise not to ruin any of the plot.

Yes, Jean Louise (aka Scout) discovers that Atticus has feet of clay.

Yes, her fury and disappointment are palpable…not unlike mine were when I got to the part where she discovers that Atticus had joined the Klan.

But wait…there is so much more here, and it matters. A lot.

For example, Jean Louise is an adult during this tale. And as adults, who among us didn’t finally discover that our parents were not the gods/goddesses we thought they were when we were children? It just took Jean Louise longer to come to this “stab of awareness….”

Indeed, “she welcomed (her father) silently into the human race….” We loved Scout, but we would we have loved a 26-year-old who still viewed the world through the eyes of a six-year-old? Like Jean Louise, it was time for me to let go of Atticus as the ideal parent and learn to love him as an honorable, realistic man.

On a larger issue, Lee’s novel helped me understand the postbellum south, much of which, if current news reports are accurate, has not changed all that much since the 1950s setting of Watchman.

Read it for the history. Read it for insight into the human spirit. Read it because you want to see how Lee’s story telling skills evolved into what became To Kill a Mockingbird. But read it.


Author: Judy Westergard

Retired English teacher, self-taught painter, inveterate reader and still lovin' my Kindle!


  1. I’m not finished yet but I am struck with how much of Go Set A Watchman is about gender and the shortcomings of marriage for women who came of age in the 1950s. Scout is a feminist!


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