Five questions we have after the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman

Posted on 10th July 2015 by Jonathan O'Brien
And we still have to wait until next week before we can get any answers.

Like everybody else, we spent the journey into work reading the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman. Then, once we got into the office, we secretly read it again when our bosses weren’t looking. We were excited already, that’s fairly obvious, but now we’re even more so. The opening brings back the feeling and tone of To Kill a Mockingbird beautifully and has only left us with more questions which we can’t wait to find out the answers to.

Why did Jean Louise leave Maycomb and when did she stop being ‘Scout’?

The opening of Go Set A Watchman reveals that this is Jean Louise Finch’s fifth annual trip home. She must have left Maycomb for New York at least five years before but why? To study? If so, what is she studying?

Also, although she’s shed her childhood nickname ‘Scout’, she’s still utterly recognisable to the little girl from To Kill a Mockingbird. She is still as independent and headstrong as ever whilst remaining charmingly clumsy as she battles with the bed on the train, having to be freed by the conductor. It’s a relief to see she has yet to be beaten down by the world. If anything, she seems to have grown stronger and more determined between the two novels.

Is Atticus going to be ok?

Jean Louise is already getting the train so her father doesn’t have to collect her in the distant town of Mobile, 100 miles from Maycomb, so him not being able to meet her off the train had our internal alarm bells ringing immediately.

Atticus is now 72 and although obviously as strong mentally as he ever was, his age is clearly catching up with him. He’s suffering from rheumatoid arthritus which, being Atticus Finch, he refuses to complain about. “If you asked him how he was feeling he would tell you, but he never complained; his disposition remained the same, so in order to find out how he was feeling, you had to ask him.”

Naturally, this concern leads to all sorts of further questions which, quite frankly, we don’t even want to think about just yet.

What happened to Jem?

We don’t think anybody was quite prepared for this. The offhand way with which we are told that Jem has died is truly heartbreaking. ‘Just about that time, Jean Louise’s brother dropped dead in his tracks one day.’ What happened to Jem? Was it during the war? How did it affect the Finch family and are we really ready to say goodbye to one of our favourite fictional characters so soon?

Will Scout agree to marry Henry?

It would be a difficult task to impress the daughter of Atticus Finch but Henry seems pretty sure he’s up to it. He seems headstrong, forward and, underneath his bravado, a decent man. The latter is to be expected from anyone brought up by Atticus. He has clearly been enamoured with Jean Louise for some time and his confidence is more of an assumption that the two will marry. For now, she seems to be enjoying her single life too much to settle down with somebody else. As Harper Lee points out, Jean Louise is ‘a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way.’ The ‘stony path of spinsterhood’ is clearly the hard way here and a path she’s more than happy to travel along for now.

How has Maycomb changed?

We've already been shown some small changes to Maycomb. The ‘first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house’ and the many more that follow show the progress of the town into a more connected future. But the lack of trains, the ‘erratic’ bus service and the barely used highways still paint it as a town distant from the outside world. Do the attitudes we saw in the townsfolk of To Kill a Mockingbird remain or has the town managed to move beyond its problems? Will we meet any familiar faces? Does Boo Radley still live in the same house? So many questions we have to wait for asnwers to, leading to our final one..

Why isn’t it Tuesday already?

There’s still four days to go which is, as far as we’re concerned, four days too many. Minimise your wait as much as possible by pre-ordering your copy now at Half Price or join us at one of our midnight launch events.


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