My review of Harper Lee’s latest

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.

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9 thoughts on “My review of Harper Lee’s latest

      1. Pg 229: Jean Louise and Henry are discussing what she saw – ” Now hush a minute. A long time ago the Klan was respectable, like the Masons. Almost every man of prominence was a member, back when Mr. finch was young. Did you know Mr. Finch joined?” and later on the same page, “He went to one meeting and that was enough.”

      2. That comment was the basis for my discussion of why I felt the critics were a bit harsh towards Atticus’s character . I stated that I probably would have initially reacted the same way Jean Louise did, but I feel a little respect was restored once it is explained why he was there. ( as you mentioned… To find out what others thought) So, when he says ” that was enough” and that ” Mr, Finch has no more use for the Klan than anybody…” to me supports the fact that he is reacting to the times in which he lives.

    1. Additionally, I will have to respectfully disagree with your comment that understanding the historical context is a hyperbole. Even in literature we must learn to “climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Thank you for taking the time to read my review. I enjoyed reading your views.

      1. Is that from my comments? I guess I find historical context a kind of relativism that, in some cases, I can’t abide. Jefferson owned slaves. A lot of people did at his time. Should one of the founders of our country have known better? It’s worth discussing, I think. To me, historical context belongs in the second layer of the onion, not the first. I think Atticus and Henry’s point that they have to live in Maycomb is a stronger reason for them to be involved in the meetings. Doesn’t Uncle Jack mention at one point that Atticus might be planning a “rearguard action”? That suggested to me that the reason for Atticus attending the meeting was to learn the arguments of the others. I think it’s just an example of an incomplete idea.

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