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To Kill A Mockingbird VS Go Set A Watchman

Updated on July 18, 2015

A Work of Perfection: To Kill A Mockingbird

Almost everyone I know has either read or studied 'To Kill A Mockingbird' in school. Harper Lee created a piece of literary perfection that has burrowed it's lyrical prose into my heart and the hearts of so many others.

In Mockingbird, Scout's brother Jem says that there are four groups of people in Maycomb. There are ‘ordinary folks’ like their family and their neighbors. There are the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods. There are the kind like the Ewells down at the dump and then there are the Negroes. Jem’s social hierarchy says that basically each group has a down-line and each group doesn’t like the other. Scout thinks that there is a little bit of everything in everyone. I always thought that Scout was just too young to understand the ways of the racial tense south, but she did have a slight grasp on it. When people get older they become less likely to change, and Jem began to see that.

The mystery and symbolism, and the genius writing style Ms. Lee presented gave us much to think about. Simple yet very complex and layered, Maycomb was a representative of what was glaringly right and wrong when it came to racism. Inevitable of course, Tom’s death was senseless, and ultimately Ms. Lee used the analogy of killing a crippled/disabled person like Tom to killing a Mockingbird. The death of Tom was compared to hunters and children who were wrong and almost immoral when they killed songbirds. This analogy connected to the title of the novel because it was thought as a 'sin' to kill a cripple just as it was a 'sin' to kill a beautiful song bird- and as Tom and the mockingbird are on in the same, the novel was called ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ At the beginning of the novel, Atticus said it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. Scout figures out the meaning of this expression and she finally figures it out that Tom was never going to be found innocent because a white woman screamed and he was blamed for it. Tom never had a fair chance. He was a 'cripple' in more ways than one.

'Mockingbird' pointed out the tremendous injustices done to people of colour in South in the 1930s. It gave a voice to the confusion children felt when they didn't understand why a person of colour was not 'as good' as a person who was white. It posed question, it had surreal truth- but most of all it centred on the innocence of children and the actions of a humble hero. Atticus wanted justice done regardless of how it looked for him to defend a black man. He risked his family's safety, his business, his reputation and his own safety to do the right thing.

At Tom's trial, Atticus said that everyone was equal in the eyes of the law and that’s not something that black people heard from white people especially in those times. The people of colour in the courtroom were shocked that he would say something like that and they probably admired him for saying it, because they felt he was speaking for all black people, not just Tom Robinson. Atticus was an early hero in the fight for civil rights.

I took so much from 'Mockingbird.' I loved Jeb and Scout, and Boo Radley's story- and Atticus' attitude and knowledge- and the way he treated his children to see what was right and wrong in the world. I loved the rich symbolism, and I could talk about it for hours.

I will admit, I even loved the movie 'To Kill A Mockingbird.'

I was a bit skeptical about the sequel because I am not sure that one should mess with perfection. I was almost afraid to read it- and to be honest, I wish I hadn't.



The Maycomb We Remember

Atticus Defending Tom

The Highly Anticipated Go Set A Watchman

I have heard so many conflicting stories as to whether or not Harper Lee wanted this manuscript released. It was 'lost.' It was just not supposed to ever be released.. I don't know what Ms. Lee's thoughts were, but there are so many inconsistencies with the writing in Go Set A Watchman. I was really disappointed.

We start with Scout- not Scout anymore, but she goes by her birth name, Jean Louise, She's back in Maycomb visiting Atticus. She's having difficulty with the 50s- the societal norms, the attitude of her father, and she struggles (sort of) to come to terms with the little town in Alabama in which she was born and raised. She notices that everything is backwards and everyone seems to be bigots, but then again she discovers that she too, is prejudice.

Twenty years later, she's playing hard to get with her childhood sweetie Henry, and she lives in New York full time. She goes home and is suddenly shocked at the back country attitude that the people who raised her have about segregation.

Here is the problem- and it's a big one- our hero Atticus who seemingly was anti-racist in 'Mockingbird' is not the same person. Atticus, who risked his reputation in defending a black man on murder charges regardless of the criticism and in reality, danger he put his family in- is now a seething racist. Gone is the representative of African Americans fighting for equal rights and fair trials. It just doesn't fit. Atticus seems to be an entirely different person, and quite honestly, it's very distracting and disappointing, and it makes 'Go Set A Watchman' difficult to swallow. The inconsistency bothered me so much I found myself almost disgusted with the novel and wondering what Harper Lee was thinking. I wish I had never read/listened to it. Our other hero, Jem, is written off in the first five minutes like he never existed. Scout has turned into a very unlikable person. Her attitude made me cringe.

I really think that 'Go Set A Watchman' shouldn't have been published. I have probably dissected 'Mockingbird' a hundred times, with both of my children and in school myself. I loved the rich symbolism and complex characters. Go Set A Watchman takes all of my love for 'Mockingbird' and puts in a jar with a lid.

Reece Witherspoon does okay narrating the audible book if you're interested in listening to the book instead of reading it. She's definitely not a professional and her narration lacks emotion- you can tell this is something new to her- but I do give her credit for her attempt. **Parts taken from my own review at www.audible.com

Ms. Harper Lee

Have You Read Go Set A Watchman Yet?

Have you read the new book by Ms. Lee?

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What Did You Think?

If you have read the book, what did you think?

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In Conclusion

Unfortunately I felt a little 'ripped off' after reading this highly anticipated novel which I've had on pre-order for months. I found that the only character that had any depth was Scout- and the other ones were either much different than we remember and to be quite frank, dry and boring. I won't be reading this again. I certainly hope that for years to come, Go Set A Watchman isn't going to be studied and regurgitated in classrooms each year. Then again, how could you possibly trump a book of fiction as perfect as 'To Kill A Mockingbird?' If I were Ms. Harper, I'd have left on a higher note.. But hey.. that's just me!

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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      I've been thinking about reading this but not sure I wanted to; now I'm a bit more convinced that I shouldn't. One of her claims to fame was that she was successful with just one novel.

      Perhaps we'll never know and why should we? She was a very private person and let down by so many it seems. Maybe she wanted to make a statement about how people can change as the world changes around them; who knows?

      I love 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and will keep that story in my mind and not spoil it. Glad you warned us!

      Ann

    • Sarah Anderson profile image

      Sarah Anderson 

      3 years ago from Wallingford, CT

      Do you think we need to get Gilbert Gottfried on this one?

    • lyoness913 profile imageAUTHOR

      Summer LeBlanc 

      3 years ago from H-Town

      Patty, I completely agree with you- amen. I don't know if history will be kind to this book, but there will always be a controversy as to whether it should have been published in the first place.

      -Wendi

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I did like the flashbacks that the grown-up Scout had about childhood and the juxtaposition of adulthood and childhood emotions in her mind, but Mockingbird's characters were better developed, as her publisher wanted.

      My understanding is that when Watchman was not used by the publisher, it was just put in a box and stored away. There's too much conflicting info about whether Nell wanted Watchman published or not for me to figure that one out.

    • lyoness913 profile imageAUTHOR

      Summer LeBlanc 

      3 years ago from H-Town

      Mel- I agree. Who knows what the answers are because Ms. Lee is in no shape (from what I hear) to give them. I wish it hadn't been published in some ways. :(

      Thanks for the comments!

      Wendi

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      I heard a report on 'Watchman' a week or so ago, before its release. The report said that 'Watchman' was actually written before 'Mockingbird,' but rather than publish this first book the publisher wanted Harper Lee to expound upon the segments that alluded to the events in 'Mockingbird,' and the result was the classic novel we all love. There is probably a good reason why it has taken so long to get 'Watchman' in print. Maybe the publisher recognized Lee's talent, but the book just wasn't that good. Great hub!

    • lyoness913 profile imageAUTHOR

      Summer LeBlanc 

      3 years ago from H-Town

      @Patty - It really IS tough to swallow any violence towards women- regardless if it was 'accepted' at the time. Thanks so much for your comment!

      @Sarah you could be right. She might have been thinking 'What the heck??' lol Then again, maybe she was just trying to do a great job and was a little nervous. She doesn't have a good 'narrator' voice unfortunately, but her acting talents make up for this shortfall- LOL

      Thanks for the comments,

      Wendi

    • lyoness913 profile imageAUTHOR

      Summer LeBlanc 

      3 years ago from H-Town

      @lambservant the last I heard, Ms. Lee has dementia or Alzheimer's and wouldn't be in any condition to give a quote. I am fairly certain that she didn't want to book published for a reason. I think she wrote Mockingbird after 'Watchman' because the characters in 'Watchman' were not rich and colourful, nor powerful enough. Thanks for reading my hub!

      -Wendi

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Sarah Anderson - You may be exactly correct.

    • Sarah Anderson profile image

      Sarah Anderson 

      3 years ago from Wallingford, CT

      Maybe Reese didn't like what she was reading either.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I meant to write In COLD Blood above; stuck on Truman Capote's name.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for this informative review, Wendi. I was going to read Go Set a Watchman and may still do so, but it sounds like a sad and very frustrating sequel.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The last interviewer to speak with Nell Harper Lee, and just a few minutes, also interviewed everyone she knew that was still alive and the families of those deceased. Harper Lee helped write big portions of In True Blood and received no thanks and no credit, Capote did not help with Mockingbird. The hard thankless work is one reason she wrote so few novels (2). Thanks!

      Watchman has violence against a woman at the end that I find in poor taste, but accepted in 1954.

      She is in assisted living now and her caregivers seem to think she will make no comment on Watchman.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I heard the same rumor but who knows. It's been so many years, it seems personal cynicism has perhaps corrupted her perception. But as I think about it, things can change in our beliefs and perceptions of the world, but in regards to racism, you are right, it just doesn't fit Atticus. I feel like the wind got knocked out of me hearing this disappointing news, but it will save me $25 at the book store.

      Have you heard any comments by Ms Lee on her new book? I'd be curious. Thanks for this review.

    • lyoness913 profile imageAUTHOR

      Summer LeBlanc 

      3 years ago from H-Town

      Thank you for reading Martha!

      -Wendi

    • HealthbyMartha profile image

      Martha Montour 

      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you for your informative review!

    • lyoness913 profile imageAUTHOR

      Summer LeBlanc 

      3 years ago from H-Town

      I heard that too- and I am not at all a Capote fan. Of course, the reaction will be subjective to everyone who reads- but this is just my opinion.

      Thanks so much for the comment and for reading!

      -Wendi

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      There was a rumor that Truman Capote helped her write Mockingbird. Maybe she needed someone to help her write this one. I don't plan to read it. I don't want my memories ruined. Thanks for the warning.

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