August 13, 2017

Read It: Go Set A Watchman



I started reading Go Set A Watchman last summer, and, as much as I enjoyed reading the memories that Scout shared from her childhood -- believe me, there was a hilarious story she shared with Jem and Dill that I still think about -- it was was one of those books that I easily put down in distraction of other books. But, I picked it up again this past winter and learned a few life lessons as I continued reading:

I found that there were some startling parallels between a book that was written in the late 1950s and what was going on at the time that I was reading it. It blew my mind that the world has not changed much in the 60 years since Go Set A Watchman was written, and that the things that has been sitting under the surface are still there. Harper Lee was acutely aware of things that a lot of people kept, and still keep, hidden in society.

One thing that a lot of people were upset over was the fact that our dear Atticus Finch is portrayed as racist in this novel. But, what some people are not remembering is that this book was written before To Kill A Mockingbird, which means he always was racist, it just wasn't evident when we first met him. To assume that there is not an ounce of racism in him simply because of his actions and words in To Kill A Mockingbird is unfair, and Go Set A Watchman shows us that we truly do not know the inner workings of the minds of others. To have put Atticus on a pedestal was a big mistake on our part, and Go Set A Watchman sets all of us straight, including Jean Louise.

I thought a lot of my childhood and the moment that I grew into my own person while reading the conversation that Jean Louise has with Dr. Finch, her uncle. That moment when you no longer hang on to the thoughts and ideals of your parents and realise that you have created your own. When you become your own person. It was when he called her a bigot that it really got to me, and I realised that I am the exact same way:

"Dr. Finch bit his under lip and let it go. 'Um hum. A bigot. Not a big one, just an ordinary turnip-sized bigot.'

Jean Louise rose and went to the bookshelves. She pulled down a dictionary and leafed through it. '"Bigot,"' she read. '"Noun. One obstinatly or intolerably devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion."...'

'...What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn't give. He stays rigid. Doesn't even try to listen, just lashes out...You have a tendency not to give anybody elbow room in your mind for their ideas, no matter how silly you think they are." (p.267)

Reading that passage was a real "a-ha" moment for me, and reminded me of this article that I had previously read about false-consensus bias, people that believe in a different point of view than you, and the fact that our opinion might just be wrong. I am one of those people that does not give in easily when fighting about an opinion that I believe is right, and it is something that I am truly working on. -- "This is not to say the Other Side is “right” but that they likely have real reasons to feel that way. And only after understanding those reasons can a real discussion take place...And you won’t convince anyone to feel the way you do if you don’t respect their position and opinions."

Go Set A Watchman was more than just the "sequel" to a good book, for me. It surprised me by being incredibly relevant. It also taught me that I still have a lot to learn, and made me question if I have truly set my own watchman.

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