Go Set A Watchman
To be perfectly honest, I did not set out to read Harper Lee's
Go Set A Watchman. This had nothing to do with the hype and
controversy surrounding the book. Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird has for
decades been my lifetime favorite novel. I was Scout last year for
Halloween. I didn't want to take even the slightest chance of its
appeal being diminished. So I did not pick it up until it was right
at eye level on a library new acquisitions shelf.
Again being honest, it took me awhile to warm up to it. I found
the rather slow pace, the decorous description of the South back in
the day to be a tad tedious.
"The possessor of the right to kiss her on the courthouse steps
was Henry Clinton, her lifelong friend, her brother's comrade, and if
he kept on kissing her like that, her husband. Love whom you will but
marry your own kind was a dictum amounting to instinct within her.
Henry Clinton was Jean Louise's own kind, and now she did not consider
the dictum particularly harsh."
Jean Louise (Scout of To Kill A Mockingbird) has grown up,
acquired an education, and relocated to New York, returning to Maycomb
Junction for two weeks each year. The first chapters show her latest
home coming as fairly predictable although her flashbacks to her years
as Scout are fascibating and sometimes funny.
After the first hundred pages my patience was well rewarded.
Jean Louise finds a very disagreeable pamphlet, The Black Plague,
among her father's papers. It turns out that prim and proper Aunt
Alexandria finds a lot of truths in it. Her father, Atticus, brought
it home from a Citizen's Council meeting. In fact he's on the Board
of Directors. The Henry who would have to marry her if he kept on
with ardent kissing is one of its most enthusiastic members.
Jean Louise is horrified when she eavesdrops on a meeting,
seeing her father sitting at the same table as a slimy politician he
wouldn't have given the time of day to when she was a child and
hearing the speaker:
"...his main interest today was to uphold the Southern Way of Life and
no niggers and no Supreme Court was going to tell him or anybody else
what to do...a race as hammer-headed as...essential
inferiority...kinky wooly heads...still in trees...greasy smelly...
marry your daughters...mongrelize the race..."
Whatever happened to the lawyer who took grave risks to defend a
black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, the father who
brought her up with the idea that all deserved equality and none
merited special privilege? Did she really know the people who shaped
her childhood world? Would the place she grew up in ever feel like
"The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly
trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she
could point and say with expert knowledge, 'He is a gentleman,' had
betrayed her publicly, grossly, and shamelessly."
The rest of the book is intense with a surprise ending. While I
would highly recommend it, particularly for book clubs, I still say it
can't hold a candle to To Kill A Mockingbird.
On a personal note, the week before Thanksgiving I went to
multicultural Thanksgiving. (Counting gay Thanksgiving and Wade
Center Thanksgiving, the family one was my fourth). It was lovely and
thought provoking. John Bear Mitchell spoke about the day from a
Native American perspective. We had drumming and singing. Then we
feasted. My favorite part was the fruit bread and cherry cheesecake I
had for dessert. I sat with a group of very interesting students from
China. Afterward I was able to get to church in time for choir
A great big shout out goes out to my multicultural center friends who
put on such a fine event.
Julia Emily Hathaway
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