Go Set a Watchman: How does the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird make America feel?
Upon opening Go Set a Watchman, I didn’t know what it could be about other than racism. Jean Louise (better known as Scout), the little daughter of the lawyer Atticus Finch, is no longer a little girl. She is now grown up and featured in this sequel to one of the most beloved books of all time. She has not strayed too far from her father or from the character we had all grown accustomed to. Instead, she has grown close to various male friends, engaged in a more masculine profession, and attended college. Of course, it should be expected to anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird that Scout would go on to break the stereotypes of a typical Southern woman.
What I was not ready for was the possibility of romance being involved. After all, the book is half-focused on her deciding who to pursue romantically and who society wants her to pursue in that respect. Her main characteristics — playful, daring, and loving — entice many men around her. She is romantically involved with a man whom she consistently rejects, behavior that nowadays would classify Scout as being “a tease.” I rather expected this from a strong woman such as Scout, but I wasn’t ready for romance to play such a big part in the book.
In one specific scene, the county of Maycomb starts a rumor that Scout and her boyfriend swam naked in the lake. Although Scout’s reaction is to joke about it, there is never really any mention about her looking sexually at her man or vice versa. Is the author trying to protect Scout’s innocent image? Or is it that the sexual nature is there, but we cannot, or simply don’t want to, imagine Scout grown up?
I personally felt uncomfortable reading “Scout” and the word “kiss” in the same sentence. I still picture Scout running around with her kid brother and playing neighborhood games. Even Atticus has grown up, crippled by his own arthritis. The death of the innocence of Scout and even the physical death of Atticus creates a black cloud over the whole novel.
Although kissing is innocent in the novel, it is still uncomfortable to break the already-formed image we have of the little girl. The isolation of Scout from her own gender is fascinating. In the book, Scout’s aunt invites her to get familiar with the ladies in town. Scout refuses, and the author talks of Scout never wanting to wear feminine clothes.
Without any access to her interior thoughts, I have pondered if Scout is even attracted to men, or if we are simply limited by the author’s scope. Is the author trying to protect us from a sexual Scout, or maybe even hinting at an asexual Scout?
The main question is this: Is America ready for Scout to grow up?