We Won’t Let ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Ruin ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ — Here’s What Made the First Book So Great (and the Second One So Bad)
The journey of To Kill a Mockingbird’s sequel Go Set a Watchman from lost Harper Lee manuscript to bookstore shelves is a hazy, controversial path that’s been the subject of much ado. Eyebrows started to raise when the fishy origin story was revealed and have stayed arched through the first chapter being made available online last week and the revealing plot twist that the sage activist lawyer Atticus Finch turns out to be a racist who’s attended Ku Klux Klan meetings. Watchman was released today and though its book sales are the last of its problems — anyone who so much as showed up in a high school English class with a curious mind will crack it open — early reviews are not great.
Like too many sequels that don’t live up to the first, the story of Go Set a Watchman is proof that too much of a good thing can make you sick — the good thing being the story of the Finch family. NPR referred to the book as a “mess,” saying that it reads like a “failed sequel,” while Michiko Kakutani couldn’t get over Atticus’ bigotry and dedicated her New York Times review to emphasizing the bipolar contrasts between the two books. Time perhaps gave the most blunt review yet, describing the book as an alienating read whose success is “nearly impossible and rather pointless to evaluate.”
The general consensus is that Watchman is a bad nightmare that will leave readers dispirited and disturbed — the exact opposite of how Mockingbird made us feel. It’s almost scary how the main theme of Mockingbird, the loss of innocence, is turned on its head in the sequel. Scout, who has grown up and presumably lost her choppy bob along the way, is now called Jean Louise, and her peers — her brother Jem and the Truman Capote-inspired Dill — are long gone. She no longer sees her father as a role model and is instead distressed by his political and social views. Watchman says goodbye to all that made Mockingbird a heroic tale, but we won’t let it tarnish the beloved classic. Here are 10 To Kill a Mockingbird quotes that made us want more of the classic in the first place.
1. “You never really understand a person until you consider his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around it.” – Atticus
2. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – Miss Maudie
3. “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” – Scout
4. “I do my best to love everybody.” – Atticus
5. “I asked him to pass the damn ham, please.” – Scout
6. “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.” – Atticus
7. “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” – Atticus
8. “I think there is just one kind of folk. Folks.” – Scout
9. “Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.” – Jem
10. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – Atticus