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Literature / Go Set a Watchman

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Go Set a Watchman is a 2015 American novel that was written by Harper Lee. It has been marketed and reviewed as the "sequel" to the 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Originally, Go Set a Watchman was her first book — a rejected first-draft manuscript that Lee proposed to her editor. It contained many flashbacks to Scout's childhood, and the editor liked those and proposed that she expand them and make that her book. That was To Kill a Mockingbird, and the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman was supposedly lost for years. It was rediscovered in a safe deposit box in Monroeville, Alabama, and it was published on July 14, 2015.

The novel takes place twenty years after the events of the first novel, as a now-adult Scout returns to Maycomb to visit her father. To her horror, she realizes that her father, whom she's idolized for his integrity, expresses racist views, and the novel is her coming to terms with him and her town.

There was controversy upon the announcement of the long-awaited "sequel" in two ways: 1) whether the book should even be published and 2) the way its discovery came about. Harper Lee had for years vehemently refused and denied there would ever be a sequel. The manuscript's "discovery" came only after her lawyer won power of attorney and was going through Lee's assets; she then sent the manuscript to a publisher. Direct and close friends questioned whether Lee, now in her late 80s and of questionable mental clarity, knew what was really going on or was being taken advantage of, having for decades refused to compose any new material on Atticus and Maycomb note  only to suddenly acquiesce to a whole book so soon after a change in power of her estate. Her attorney denied all allegations, said Lee was "excited as hell" about the upcoming printing, and so the book was published with all the fanfare a long-lost work demands.


  • Alternate Continuity: The narrative is effectively one to the original book due to inconsistencies between this story and the original.
  • An Aesop: Looking down on people because of their actions, beliefs, upbringing, etc. goes both ways, and ignoring your own faults has consequences.
  • As the Good Book Says...: This title is taken from Isaiah 21:6.
  • Batman Gambit: Atticus and Uncle Jack were well aware of Scout's worship of her father, how bad it was for her growth as a person. They let the issue run its course, giving her vague hints and hoping that she'd figure it out eventually and talk things out rationally, but this fails, culminating with Scout angrily telling off Atticus and coming within seconds of leaving him forever, and Uncle Jack has to physically intervene and explain the situation directly.
  • Broken Pedestal: The main conflict of the story is Scout coming to terms with her father once she realizes that he was a racist.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Or lawyer, in Atticus's case.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Scout and Henry, though she eventually realizes they can't stay together.
  • Cool Uncle: Uncle Jack is more snarky and prone to eccentric behavior, but is definitely this to Scout. He considers Scout and Jem to be the children he never had, and was in love with their mother.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The main conflict is Scout suddenly realizing that her father and hometown weren't as perfect as she remembered.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Henry Clinton is this for Scout, and it seems they've reached the point that marriage seems inevitable. After the revelations of Henry's participation at the Citizens' Council - and a talk with Uncle Jack - Scout realizes that they're incompatible and are Better as Friends at best.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jem apparently died all of a sudden off-screen, and the novel mentions it only in passing. Somewhat justified; he died of the hereditary heart problem that killed their mother with equal suddenness years earlier. Harper Lee's brother Edwin did die suddenly at a young age, while serving in the military, but he had a cerebral hemorrhage rather than heart failure.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: Uncle Jack's approach to getting Scout to realize what's going on. Unfortunately, she's too angry and confused to understand, and he has to tell her directly. This culminates with him double-slapping her and giving her a tumbler of whiskey, thus stunning her long enough to sit down and talk.
  • Foreshadowing: In the flashbacks to her childhood, it's repeatedly shown that Scout tends to believe what she's told or what she sees without question, makes assumptions, lets her issues build up, and has to be bailed out of trouble. It's endearing when she's a child, but not so much when she's 26. While Atticus is indeed bigoted, he's nowhere near as bad as Scout assumed, and it takes an angry confrontation/near falling-out with him, and a physical intervention from Uncle Jack to calm her down.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Uncle Jack, in contrast to Atticus.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Uncle Jack nearly slaps a furious Scout unconscious before explaining his view of things. He says it's OK because he doesn't usually hit women.
  • Godwin's Law: Scout compares Atticus to Hitler during their confrontation. Atticus just smiles.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: Downplayed but still present. Aunt Alexandra thinks in terms of Family Honor and acting as a Proper Lady, so when Jean Louise does not think in those terms as well (as she usually doesn't) arguments begin.
  • I Am Spartacus: Henry engineers one with every girl at Scout's high school in order to get her out of trouble from unintentionally causing a prank.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Uncle Jack's reaction after slapping Scout, because he doesn't usually hit women.
  • Learned from the News: Nobody remembered to tell Dill that Jem died. Dill only found out when someone sent him a newspaper clipping.
  • Miss Conception: When Scout was twelve years old, a boy French-kissed her, to her surprise and irritation. She later believed herself to be pregnant after hearing false information on the playground and made an unsuccessful (if feeble) attempt to kill herself when the nine months were up.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Scout thinks this almost verbatim when Uncle Jack's explanation of Atticus's actions starts to sink in.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Back in Scout’s childhood, she, Jem, and Dill got bored of their other games and decided to have a “revival.” This meant imitating Reverend Moorehead, having a pretend church service in Aunt Rachel’s yard, and a pretend baptism. Jem (pretending to be Reverend Moorehead) suggests that Scout (who’s going to be pretend baptized) take off her clothes so they don’t get wet when she’s “baptized” in the fishpool. Aunt Rachel furiously interrupts the ceremony, because Dill, being bored, took the sheets off the bed and cut eye-holes in them, pretending to be the “Holy Ghost.” Scout and Jem head back to their own yard feeling sorry for Dill, and then see Atticus, Calpurnia, and Atticus’s guests for dinner— the Reverend and his wife. Atticus takes off his coat and puts in over Scout, and only then does she realize that she was standing stark naked in the preacher’s presence.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Seeing your hometown and childhood through memories of nostalgia can make you overlook the awful aspects and things you took for granted.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Scout goes to visit Cal, the Finch's former black servant, and quickly realizes that the woman who essentially raised her is code switching — talking to her with "company manners" (i.e. using poor grammar, dropping verbs, playing up her country accent, and generally speaking like a subservient black person would be expected to). She's taken aback when it dawns on her that the closest thing she ever had to a mother no longer seems to consider her "family", just another white person she used to work for.
  • Parents as People: Growing up worshiping your father as an idealized bastion of moral perfection is not good for your development as a person. Your parents are flawed just like you, and you won't always agree. Atticus and Uncle Jack realized this about Scout after it was far too late and knew a confrontation was inevitable.
  • Put on a Bus: Dill, who only appears in flashbacks and is now most likely traveling in Europe. He was in Italy last time anyone heard. He stayed in Europe after the army sent him over.
  • Rags to Riches: Henry Clinton, who came from one of Maycomb's "trash" families, worked hard as a teenager, and is now essentially Atticus's protege. However, this is the source of his greatest insecurity: he thinks that if he doesn't conform to Maycomb's political stance and culture, he'll lose the respect and everything he worked for.
  • Right Behind Me: After Jem (pretending to be the preacher) gives a lengthy pretend sermon that’s heavily based on a preacher’s last 3 sermons, Dill tries to sing a hymn, and Scout is almost “baptized” in Aunt Rachel’s fish pond, Aunt Rachel angrily interrupts and marches Dill inside, threatening him with a switch, Jem and Scout walk to their yard (next door), feeling sorry for Dill. As they turn around to walk back, Scout and Jem see Atticus and Calpurnia glaring at them, and the very same preacher Jem imitated. The preacher and his wife had been standing there, watching for a while. They were not amused, but Atticus later had to excuse himself from the dinner table because he was about to start laughing about his children’s antics.
  • Series Continuity Error: Tom Robinson was convicted in To Kill a Mockingbird, but acquitted here.
  • So Proud of You: Atticus says this to Scout, because she confronted him, stood her ground over their differing beliefs, and eventually realized that her father was a regular person after all.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Scout's nostalgic perceptions of her father and Maycomb are shattered, she doesn't fit in with the other women, and not even Cal treats her the same way. She even returns to her old home, only to find it changed into an ice cream parlor.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Jean Louise's brother Jem, and only mentioned in passing.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Atticus Finch, an iconic hero in the first book, becomes a senile old racist. This is shocking both in and out of universe, with Atticus's daughter expressing her distaste, and many critics have also voiced displeasure at the dismantling of one of the most inspiring heroes in American history.
  • Trickster Mentor: Uncle Jack's seemingly random musings, literary quotes, and snarky responses are contrasted with Atticus's more straitlaced personality, and the rest of the townsfolk in general. Guess who ends up being the most Genre Savvy character and talking Scout out of her Heroic BSoD?
  • Was It All a Lie?: The realization that her hometown and the people there are not exactly who or what she thought drives Scout to question whether any of it was ever at all like she believed when she was growing up. Especially poignant after Scout realizes Cal, the black servant who practically raised her, doesn't consider her family. She looks back as she's leaving and asks if the old woman ever loved her (or her brother). The old woman's answer is ambiguous at best.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Scout finally confronts Atticus, and it's not pretty. However, he calmly explains his stance and leaves Scout even more upset. It takes a direct intervention from Uncle Jack to keep Scout from leaving Atticus and Maycomb behind forever.