“Go Set a Watchman” – an (unwelcome) contribution to the race debate

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published in 1960 and was embraced by much of the American progressive establishment that used it as a bat in the debate over racial discrimination. Set in a small town in the American South, the story is a white, middle-aged lawyer who later gets a black man acquitted of rape charges from a white girl. Other main characters are the lawyer’s boy-girl-daughter and a son, she is around 10 years old and he a few years older.

This was the author Harper Lee’s first book and long was also thought to be the only one. But in 2015 came “Go Set A Watchman” which was not a sequel as first thought but turned out to be a first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Many passages of text overlap in both books.

The big difference is that the plot of “Go Set a Watchman” takes place twenty years after the plot of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. It also turns out that the kind-hearted lawyer is sceptical that it is possible to grant all blacks full civil rights overnight. The Civil Rights Act did just that in 1964 and the lawyer believes it was a mistake. He does not believe that the blacks are mature enough to deal with all this freedom at once and that it will cause major problems in society going forward. The daughter, on a visit to her birthplace, who from childhood has worshipped her father as a god for his upright stance, especially on the issue of race, is now forced to take a stand for what she herself thinks for the first time in her life instead of being blindly led by the father’s actions and opinions.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was very politically correct in 1960 as it is also today while “Go Set a Watchman” definitely isn’t. The book received a very cool reception when it was published and was not noticed at all in the same way as its predecessor, despite the fact that the prose is of the same high quality and the plot is interesting. This reveals a lot about our postmodern, twisted present where posturing and virtue flashing trumps facts and reason.

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