We use cookies to track usage and preferences. See Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
IT
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the Italy version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > Who’s reading the Watchman?

Who’s reading the Watchman?
Writing Magazine

Who’s reading the Watchman?

Posted venerdì 14 agosto 2015   |   7135 views   |   General Interest   |   Comments (0) We assess whether Go Set a Watchman, published more than 50 years after its famous predecessor, stands up against Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Go Set a Watchman is more complex, but To Kill a Mockingbird is – by some distance – the more powerful novel. We have an identical theme – racial inequality – but its treatment is very different. It’s a strong, emotionally gripping subject, and at the time of Mockingbird’s publication in 1960 it was hugely topical – constantly in the news. In both books we have two strong, clearly drawn central characters – Atticus and Scout/Jean Louise. Their names are the same but, as we have seen, they are very different people.

In Mockingbird we have a strong supporting cast of memorable characters. There’s Dill, a boy a year older than Scout, who spends his summers in Maycomb and becomes obsessed by the need to make the reclusive Boo Radley come out of his house. Boo is a constant presence, though we meet him in the flesh only at the very end of the story. Jem, Scout’s loving brother, is a principled mini-Atticus. We also have some vivid minor characters, such as Sheriff Tate, Dolphus Raymond (who prefers the company of blacks and likes to make people think that the coca cola he constantly sips is whiskey), Mr Cunningham (‘basically a good man,’ says Atticus, though he’s been part of a lynching mob), nice Miss Maudie, morphine-addicted Mrs Dubose, and villainous, despicable Bob Ewell. Harper Lee pokes gentle fun at Aunt Alexandra’s Missionary Society: ladies of Maycomb who support efforts not only to spread their version of Christianity but also to combat poverty and injustice in Africa – but are blind to the very same problems on their own doorstep.
The supporting cast of Watchman is less impressive, but there are fine portrayals of Jean Louise’s uncle, Dr Finch, and her Aunt Alexandra. The latter was the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was a disapprover; she was an incurable gossip. We have a nicely worked set piece – Aunt Alexandra’s coffee morning, where Jean Louise struggles to make polite conversation with smug newlyweds talking only about their husbands, the Light Brigade (ladies in their early/mid-thirties who devoted most of their time to the Amanuensis Club, bridge and getting one-up on each other in the matter of electrical appliances) and three Perennial Hopefuls (jolly Maycomb girls of excellent character who had never made the grade).

An undercurrent of racial prejudice runs through much of the coffee morning conversation.   

Watchman’s third-person voice is conventional and uninvolving; it occasionally slips, rather confusingly, into the first or second person. The cleverness of Mockingbird lies in Lee’s ability to retain an adult perspective while telling Scout’s story in the voice of the child. Mockingbird is also a much pacier novel. The first mention of the Tom Robinson case which Atticus is to defend comes in chapter 9, and as we follow the court case the pace gradually quickens. Watchman is less well-written, with no clear structure, and at times reads more like a series of autobiographical anecdotes than a purposeful novel. It culminates in the three discursive debates Jean Louise has, in turn, with Hank, Dr Finch and Atticus. This is where the manuscript would have particularly benefitted from some judicious editing. Given that Watchman, Harper Lee’s first attempt at a novel, almost certainly had no input from an editor who advised her to set it aside and to concentrate on what was to become Mockingbird, it is understandable that the quality of the writing is not as good.
The greatest contrast between the two books is the character of Atticus. What should we make of his brutal metamorphosis from saintly lawyer to racist bigot? Should we go painstakingly through the Mockingbird text, searching for signs of his incipient racism? Or should we attribute his changed attitudes to the increase in racial tension in the South during the period between 1935, when Mockingbird is set, and the late fifties of Watchman? Neither suggestion stands up to scrutiny. We must remember that Watchman was written before Mockingbird. The explanation for his changed character is surely very simple: that in the process of working on the manuscript, and turning what was essentially the first draft of a rather rambling first novel into the masterpiece that is Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s conception of Atticus’s character fundamentally changed.

Perhaps her editor had suggested that a decent, morally impeccable Atticus would appeal much more to the American public?  

For more great articles like this get the September 2015 issue of Writing Magazine below or subscribe and save.

Single Issue - June 2018 Replica & Mobile Edition included
€5,49
Or 549 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only € 3,67 per issue
SAVE
33%
€43,99
Or 4399 points
6 Month Digital Subscription
Only € 4,00 per issue
SAVE
27%
€23,99
Or 2399 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only € 4,49 per issue
SAVE
18%
€4,49
Or 449 points

View Issues

About Writing Magazine

Writing Magazine is the UK’s biggest and bestselling magazine for ALL writers. Whether you write for pleasure or publication, whatever your style or genre, this magazine has something to help you.

More great content like this...

For more great articles like this subscribe to Writing Magazine today.

Most read articles this month


WHEN THE MUSE GOES MISSING!

WHEN THE MUSE GOES MISSING!

Nashville songwriter Mark Cawley shares some tactics for reviving those elusive creative juices when you’ve lost the flow More...
How I got  published

How I got published

The author’s debut was actually her sixth novel, she tells Dolores Gordon-Smith More...
3 Free Reads for the New Year

3 Free Reads for the New Year

Spend all your money in December? Us too. We’ve pulled together our 3 favourite free reads available for you on Pocketmags. Everyone loves a free read! More...
News from the world of the piano

News from the world of the piano

Argerich and Babayan in Cleveland More...
5 Digital Magazines for Spring

5 Digital Magazines for Spring

Here at Pocketmags, we simply cannot wait to welcome in a new season of bloom and blossom. Jumpstart your motivation with our selection of 5 digital magazines for spring. More...
3 Fitness Trends You Haven’t Tried

3 Fitness Trends You Haven’t Tried

We’ve all heard of the crazy exercises people are trying - from animal yoga to orange theory. But if one of your New Year's resolutions is to get fit and find some sort of exercise you’ll enjoy then maybe you will love one of these… More...
How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Without a Valentine

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Without a Valentine

It’s been hitting you in the face since the 1st of February, from the red and pink hues occupying every storefront window, to the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate taking over your local supermarket, there is simply no escaping the mushy romantic vibes of Valentine’s Day. More...
Take your research to the next level

Take your research to the next level

Starting with this issue, and running all through 2018, the Academy learning experience will help you learn more about the records, resources and research skills you need to become the best genealogist you can be. We have case studies for you to pit your wits against, documents for you to decipher, old handwriting for you to tackle, and more… More...
5 Free Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

5 Free Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

It’s the one, and the only day of the year that is devoted to a crazy, little thing called love. Where all you need are three words, eight letters and twenty-four hours to steal the heart of the one you most desire. More...
Great British Cake Decorator Winner 2017

Great British Cake Decorator Winner 2017

We talk fondant and fairytales with the 2017 winner of our Great British Cake Decorator competition, Nicola Gerrans of Nicola Gerrans Cake Design More...
Vouchers Carte Regalo Un abbonamento rivista è il regalo perfetto , ma avrete bisogno di qualcosa da mostrare il grande giorno. Altro
Modalità di pagamento Pocketmags Payment Types
A Pocketmags si ottiene Fatturazione sicura Ultime offerte HTML Reader Regali Loyalty Points