It’s been more than twenty-five years since my teacher told me to read ”To Kill A Mockingbird” for an Assignment in English. I remember two things from the book: 1) I understood! 2) I didn’t understand! To you that may seem to be a contradiction, right? It’s not. It’s just a matter of meaning… I understood the ENGLISH and that made me very happy and proud, since English is not my first language. But reading in a language that is not one’s first language rise other different questions, such as ”what is this book really about?”…and I didn’t quite catch it… I remember I needed lots of help from my teacher back then. What the teacher helped me with was the cultural setting, the typical South of the USA and what it might have been like to grow up in Alabama at the time for To Kill a Mockingbird.
Last year I read in a newspaper that the author had finally released ”Go Set a Watchman” and I decided to read it for two different reasons: 1) I wanted to understand. 2) I had heard that this book was what Harper Lee wanted to publish in the first place when she first contacted the editor. I had also read that Harper Lee was asked to remove certain parts of her script or to re-write it, because the content was not appropriate according to the editor. I also knew that ”Go Set a Watchman” would be originally written without any such editing and I found that very interesting.
I have not re-read ”To Kill a Mockingbird” yet. I will of course. But that will be later. Instead I’d like to share with you what was the most interesting impression I got from reading Go Set a Watchman. It was REAL. I felt as if I was there, too, with Scout, or Jean Louise as she’s called most of the time in this book. There are two topics in particular that I find real. First it’s this tension between different groups of the society, referred to in the book as colored or white, although you may prefer other ”labels” now. The tension is there in both directions and it is obvious to the reader that people do not trust each other, do not mix with each other if not necessary. We read most of this particular topic from the point of view of Atticus’ sister Alexandra or from Jean Louise herself.
The next topic that draw my attention is when Jean Louise is forced by Alexandra to entertain a group of young women from the area. Alexandra has baked cakes and cookies for the event and her main interest is for Jean Louise to re-establish old connections with friends from her childhood and youth, and maybe find a reason to stay, instead of returning to New York where she now lives. It’s just that Jean Louise it not really interested. The way Harper Lee has written this part of the book is absolutely brilliant. It’s written in short abruptly cut comments, just the way other people’s conversations sound if you’re not a part of them and may not even collect everything that’s said. As if you were eavesdropping… After a while of reading this collection of short comments, I know more about those young ladies than if Harper Lee had attempted to draw a sketch of each and every one of them. And even more interesting, I also catch between the lines what Jean Louise think of all these young women, since she moves from one little group of ladies to the other, not really participating, merely listening. This part of the book made it worth the while to read it.
For one reason or the other Harper Lee was asked to edit in her script, to remove certain parts of the script… The result was ”To Kill a Mockingbird”… I must re-read it, as I said above…but now that I haven’t I prefer to just rest in the thought that I didn’t really like ”To Kill a Mockingbird” when reading it then, twenty-five years ago. I do however LIKE ”Go Set a Watchman”. I like Harper Lee’s sense of humor and I like her way of drawing a sketch of the society as it was then. But most of all, I as a reader, enjoy the fact that nobody has cut and edited this script. It’s supposed to be just as it was from the very beginning, and although the setting in the book is two decades after the events in ”To Kill a Mockingbird” it’s written before that book. To me, Harper Lee was a lot better in original than when that editor of hers had decided to remove ”controversial” parts… To write a book about life, when life seems like a struggle, may be hard enough, but to write it and have it translated and spread all over the world is a wonder. Harper Lee obviously did this twice! Thank you for the reading experience you gave me, Harper Lee! ❤