There was a period in high school where I (along with countless others of you I’m sure) touted around with a paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. My copy was dog-eared, and heavily underlined, with a good amount of scribbling in the margins.
Since that time other books have been my favourites, but I have always wondered what became of Scout, Jem, and Dill. And today I finally get to find out.
Part of me is as excited as a kid at Christmas — sure that Mockingbird’s companion Go Set a Watchman is equally as quietly wise. Part of me is wary of getting my expectations up to high — I’ve already read enough of the book to know that one of the major players has died in the between Mockingbird and Watchman, and my heart has broken a little accordingly.
What makes me most nervous, however, is the murmurings on the Internet that Atticus is not the saint many of us have made him out to be. A review in yesterday’s Guardian sums up this disillusionment well:
“To the horror also of his daughter, the anti-racist lawyer now attends public meetings to oppose the supreme court’s attempts to impose integrated education and equal voting rights in the south. For many readers, large stretches of Watchman will be like discovering an alternative version of The Catcher in the Rye in which JD Salinger casts the story of the adolescent Holden Caulfield as the dream of a paedophile Republican senator.”
While I don’t think it’s unusual in the real world for people to hold different views privately than they do publicly, I’m genuinely concerned that I’m not ready to lose my Atticus. In Mockingbird Scout notes, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” But we have loved Atticus even before we knew we might lose him.
Today I’ll read on (and I’ll no doubt finish Watchmen or finish with it by this time next week). I am wondering if I’m doing the right thing by going back to Maycomb, but I’m still going back willingly.
Will you read Go Set a Watchman?