Preceded by intense publicity and intriguing anticipation, Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’ turns out to be a work proffering mixed passions. Set in Maycomb County, home to the upright epitome of integrity Atticus Finch (the immortal hero of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’), the story evolves around the torn emotions of Finch’s once-rebellious, tomfoolery-indulgent daughter Jean Louise Finch.
Returning from New York to Maycomb, Jean Louise Finch is bristling with excitement at the notion of spending two idyllic weeks in her prosaic but beloved town. But she is brutally jolted out of her pleasant reverie when she realizes in earth shattering fashion that Maycomb County is tranquil, no more. There are ripples of undercurrents and whirlpools of tension between the blacks and the whites. This was the age when the terms “Negro” and “nigger” were part of the normal paraphernalia of English vocabulary.
The cruelest cut of them all is dealt to Jean Louise Finch when she arrives at the startling and seemingly inviolable conclusion that her very own father, her towering role model and champion of human rights is also a firm pole planted deep into the errant side of prejudiced notions. This ignoble and almost vapid realisation makes Jean Louise cringe and she prepares herself for a remorseless and uninhibited confrontation with her father.
What follows is a slightly contradictory and quasi-polemic sequence of narratives that segue and split into, in addition to snatching at threads of attempted convictions. While the reader is held in undoubted thrall, once the covers come down, she is left to wonder at an eerie vacuum explaining which is a sheer impossibility. The portrayal of Atticus Finch as a reluctant lawyer cleaving the most relevant and unavoidable topic of racism leaves more questions than answers. A helpless tolerance towards preservation of segregation wages a meek battle with an overbearing need to abhor discrimination. There are more points to ponder than reasons to bask in resplendent celebrations.
The redeeming character of the book is Dr.Jack Finch the eccentric medical doctor and literary buff who is the brother of Atticus Finch. Through “Uncle Jack”, Harper Lee tries to prise out the vicissitudes that plague the conscience of people concerned with either abhorring or embracing racial segregation. The conversations between Jack and Jean Louise Finch form the apogee of this work.
“Go Set A Watchman” – An unanswered endeavour.