This is not the usual “coming of age” novel because our protagonist is not a teenager, but an adult.However, as all young adults, we have that time in our lives when we realize how extraordinarily different our perceptions of people and life are when we are children. Readers are reunited with the citizens of the fictitious town of Maycomb,Alabama, and in true Harper Lee style, the first half of the book is spent on events in the narrator’s life. We read of her traumatic,yet humorous, transition into puberty, her rebellious teenage years, and her decision to leave Maycomb to work in New York. We find out the fate of her beloved brother and we are introduced to other characters that have entered her life since her face-to-face meeting with Boo Radley. My only disappointment was that there was no further update on Boo Radley’s fate.
I do not feel that the critics were fair in their vicious attack on the character of Atticus. Yes, Atticus attended a KKK meeting and was overheard in the ‘community’ meeting using the ‘n’ word. And, yes, I would have the same initial anger that Scout had,but Lee restores respect to the character in Atticus’s discussion of why he attended and the purpose behind his actions. One also has to understand the setting of the novel. The novel cannot be read with today’s standards and fully understand Atticus. According to Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor, readers must ” find a reading perspective that allows for sympathy with the historical moment of the story, that understands the text as having been written against its own social, historical, cultural, and personal background.” If a reader can do this, then there can be some understanding of Atticus and others in Maycomb.
The novel is true to its title, as Lee quotes from the bible, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go,set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” Lee shows readers Jean Louise’s return home to experience the realization that while as children, one does not see the flaws of those respected. Jean Louise found her own conscience (‘watchman”). One apart from Atticus and those she respected growing up. Growth is painful, and as she listened to Dr. Finch and to Atticus, she does gain some compassion, but is still firm in her own beliefs about the need for equality of mankind.