Go set a Watchman: Summary, Review

Hey readers! Welcome to the page. Today we’re gonna talk about the sequel of the ‘unforgettable classic and probably the best novel ever written’. We’ll be talking about the sequel of Harper Lee’s To kill a Mockingbird titling ‘Go set a Watchman’. The novel was published on 14th July 2015 and continuing the legacy of ‘to kill a mockingbird’, it became the Amazon’s most pre-ordered book.

Even though it’s considered a sequel of ‘to kill a mockingbird’, it has been written before it. The novel was initially drafted in 1957 itself, but didn’t got published then.

But when the novel finally got published, it proved to be equally amazing and influencing as the first one. And it has been acclaimed all over the world and got positive remarks from the critics.

‘A pleasure, revelation and genuine literary event.’ –Guardian

‘A powerful and moving novel….it’s a worthy successor’ –Daily Express

‘Reacquaint yourself with that beguiling Harper Lee narrative style – warm, sardonic, amused… wryly funny, a sassy Southern voice, Mark Twain with a dash of Katharine Hepburn.’ –Sunday Times

‘Fascinating, haunting… That voice remains the same: strong, humorous, unsentimental; the unmistakable voice of Harper Lee.’ –Joanne Harris, Daily Mail 

Well, as these reviews would’ve made you interested in this unforgettable successor, let’s get straight to it’s summary.

PS: The essence of feminism is even more stronger in this sequel!

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Go set a Watchman: Summary

“As sure as time, history is repeating itself, and as sure as man is man, history is last place he’ll look for his lessons”

Jean Louise Finch, the 26 year old protagonist visits her hometown, Maycomb, Alabama. She returns from New York where she currently lives. Her brother Jem Finch has died of a heart disease, the same disease that killed their mother. She’s visiting her father, Atticus, a former lawyer, who’s an old man now and has been suffering from arthritis. So, her aunt Alexandra has moved to Maycomb to help Atticus.   Upon her return, she’s welcomed by her childhood bestie naming Henry Clinton ‘Hank’, who’s her sweetheart too. Henry works with Atticus in his office. While driving home, Henry provokes Jean for marriage, but Jean rejects his proposal as she’s not sure about it.

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They visit her home and meet Atticus and Alexandra. During her visit, she gets to know about the ongoing controversy in the community rooted from the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. The decision made racial segregation in public school illegal. The other source of controversy is the establishment of National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Later that night, Jean and Henry go to the Finch’s landing and they swim in the pool. Jean starts having nostalgia about her childhood days, she remembers Dill, who was her and Jem’s best friend and her brother Jem, who died two years ago. While returning, they see a car consisting of black people driving very fast and carelessly, he states that they’ve got enough money to buy a car, but they doesn’t have enough knowledge to get an insurance or license.

“Sometimes we have to kill a little so we can live.”

She soon gets to know that Atticus has taken a case, in which he agrees to defend Calpurina’s grandson, who has killed a drunk man by speeding his car. Calpurina was her former housekeeper, whom she considered as her second mother. However, Atticus takes the case in order to stop NAACP from getting into the matter. When she goes to meet Calpurina, she gets devastated by her weird and cold behavior.

Later that day, Jean goes behind Atticus to the Citizen’s Council meeting of Maycomb. Jean secretly watches Atticus from the balcony. She gets outraged by what she sees, she watches Atticus accommodating a man who’s delivering a racist speech against the blacks. Jean finds out that the men taking part in the meeting promoted white supremacy and opposed blacks, and Atticus is a part of such an organization. She remembers her childhood days, when she was six, Atticus defended a black man facing a fake rape charge against him. Atticus went against the whole community to defend him. But now, the same Atticus Finch is a part of the racist organization, and so is Henry. Jean walks away, being devastated and felt betrayed by the man she admired the most.

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That night she recalls the time during her adolescence. Some senior boy kissed her and she believed that she was pregnant. She was so upset that she decided to commit suicide at the end of 9 months to save her family’s pride. However, when she was about to jump from a building, Henry appeared suddenly and saved her. And now, she felt betrayed by Henry.

“Every man’s island, every man’s watchman, in his conscience.”

Jean meets Henry and states that she won’t marry him after what she saw and shouts at him for being a racist. Later she meets Atticus in his office. They both had a hot argument about Supreme Court’s decision. They have conflicting views in the matter. While Atticus believes that Supreme Court’s decision is irresponsible and not compatible with the society. He states that the blacks aren’t ready for equal rights and are irresponsible. Atticus asserts that if the blacks are empowered irresponsibly, they’ll probably misuse their powers. Those words by Atticus were unbearable by Jean as he was the man who taught her to treat everyone equally and strongly opposed racism. She yells at Atticus and moves away.

She returns home and decides to leave the town the same day as she can’t stand it anymore. But suddenly she is stopped by her uncle Jack. She argues with him and outraged by her argument and what she said to Atticus, he slaps her. He explains her that Atticus is a human being and have his own views. He states that her assumption that Atticus’s stand would be same as hers is wrong, that Atticus is his own person and has his own views and she is her own person and has her own views, which need not to be same as Atticus’s. Uncle Jack explains her that things are getting bearable because she is her own person now and doesn’t expects Atticus and Henry to have same opinion as hers.

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He concludes by saying, “every man’s island Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, in his own conscience. There is no such thing as collective conscious.”

Go set a Watchman: Review

Go set a Watchman, probably the most thoughtful and insightful novel I’ve ever read. It would make you think ‘deliberately’ from the first chapter itself. It never gets boring or slow and keeps you engaged, especially with the life of Jean Louise and her childhood memories. You yourself would get a nostalgia if you’ve read ‘to kill a mockingbird’ earlier. And at a point, you yourself would feel betrayed by Atticus and this novel would completely change Atticus’s image, that you’ve set in your mind by reading the prequel. But you can’t really hate Atticus, can you? And let me tell you, your stand on how you see Atticus completely depends on your political stand about the issue, so the novel is quite political too, but not too much like ‘1984’.

Talking about the characters, each and every character is as appealing as the other. Harper Lee greatly portrays each and every character, especially the protagonist Jean Louise. Talking about the great Atticus Finch, the man’s got old but is equally admirable and as I said earlier in To kill a mockingbird’s review, he’s still ‘The Man’. You’d even find a glimpse of Atticus in Henry, and I felt really bad for him at the end, and so would you, cause he’s really adorable. Other than the characters, Harper Lee greatly portrays the concept of feminism through the tomboyish character of Jean.

Go set a watchman follows the greatness and reputation of ‘To kill a Mockingbird’ and is a marvelous piece of literature by Harper Lee. After reading this one, you’d really regret that Harper Lee wrote so little!



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