Growing Up with Scout and Atticus: Getting from To Kill a Mockingbird Through Go Set a Watchman
This essay argues that Harper Lee’s unexpected but welcomed second novel, Go Set a Watchman, is both a fitting and a disappointing sequel to her beloved debut, To Kill a Mockingbird. It is fitting because it confirms that Atticus Finch, the knowing father of the first novel, despite his noble defense of a falsely accused Black man in the Depression Era South, never was, on closer inspection, much of a Progressive, even on matters of race. That, for many of his admirers, has proved hugely, almost Oedipally, disappointing. But what fits equally well, and disappoints even more, is his adoring daughter Scout’s coming of age. Though twenty-six in the second novel and re-settled in New York City, she is still very much a child of the segregated South. In her second novel as much as in her first, Harper Lee has her heroine learn that, on the things that really matter, her father ultimately knows best. The second novel’s very late arrival thus reminds us of what history has long since taught: “With all deliberate speed” will prove far too fast a pace for some very respectable Southern white folks, both real and imagined.
Robert E. Atkinson Jr., Growing Up with Scout and Atticus: Getting from To Kill a Mockingbird Through Go Set a Watchman, 65 Duke Law Journal Online 95-125 (2016)