Avoidance has made me a bit late coming to this sequel of the Harper Lee classic To Kill a Mockingbird. From reading reviews when the book first came out, I feared that it wouldn’t be as good as Mockingbird – it isn’t – and that Atticus Finch turns into a racist – he does. But I wanted to read it simply to be back in that world from the viewpoint of Scout Finch – always fiesty and true to herself. The story is about Scout as a grown-up returning to Alabama for a visit and discovering that race relations have changed for the worse. Most of the people around her, including Atticus and her old boyfriend Hank are against the NAACP and the equal empowerment of black people. Scout is revolted and puts up a good fight and in the end learns to accept that she could still love people that she strongly disagrees with and that she shouldn’t run away from them. While Scout is the symapthetic protagonist here, I wasn’t completely taken in by her. She says that all people are equal, but she also believes that blacks are intellectually inferior and says that she wouldn’t date a black man. It made for some uncomfortable reading, but I pressed on in order to hear Atticus defend himself, which he does in a heated exchange with Scout – there are a few of these issue-focused arguments in the book, reminding me of two-hander political plays. What Atticus displays is a reasoned use of logic to justify his racism (which isn’t of the KKK variety, but racist nonetheless). But his logic only works if the premises about African-Americans were true, and most modern day readers would say they are not. This is one of these stories that needs to be placed in its social-historical context to be enjoyed. In the end, at least it hints that we are all fallible and subject to weak reasoning.
I read Go Set a Watchman as soon as I could. You are correct, Watchman reflects place and time more accurately than Mockingbird.