Analysis Of Racism In Go Set A Watchman By Harper Lee

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From Father Figure to Failure Authors often insert their personal beliefs, views, and prejudices through the depictions of their fictional characters. It is no different for Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize winning author best known for her writings about Southern life during the 1930’s. Lee’s views on race were established in her first novel through the character of Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer who serves as the novel’s moral conscience in terms of justice and acceptance. However, Lee’s second novel takes a more sinister turn as Atticus’ character is depicted as a racist affiliating with anti-integration and anti-black views. Lee’s perspectives on race and racial discrimination are clearly represented through the changes she made regarding Atticus …show more content…
Lee purposefully tears apart Atticus’ character in order to show the two sides of racial discrimination. In Go Set A Watchman, Scout, Atticus’ daughter’s world comes crashing down around her when she finds out her father has become part of a racist, all-white men’s terrorist group. After finding a pamphlet titled “The Black Plague” in her father’s belongings, the archetypal individual who once stood for justice whom she had previously knew morphed into a hypocrite. “Atticus is revealed as a segregationist and a reactionary extremist…[he] displays layers of contradictory attitudes about race harbored by whites” (Corrigan). “Tell me what’s turned my father into a nigger-hater” (188) Scout demands of her relatives. Contrary to Lee’s first novel To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus adopts a new title which contrasts his previous label of “nigger-lover.” It seems as though Lee abandoned her personal attachment and ceased to see part of herself in Atticus and instead targeted Scout as the moral mercenary of the second novel. Atticus continues to stray from his early principles as he states “Have you ever notices how he licks his fingers when he eats cake? Trash. Have you ever seen him cough without covering his mouth? Trash. Have you ever watched him pick at his nose when he didn’t think anybody was looking? Trash” (37). There are obvious major parallels between the words that come out of Atticus’ mouth …show more content…
On the other hand, Go Set A Watchman simply shows that Lee knew more about her own and Atticus’ principles all along-that they never composed of justice for blacks. In many ways, Atticus’ subtle racism already existed in the first novel but was only really brought to life in the second (Nichols). “They’re a public menace” (80) he says to his daughter referring to the black race. Yet how does an author and her own fictional character shed the majority of their personalities? Better yet it could be the fact that Scout is now a grown up and is able to distinguish right from wrong on her own which exposes her father as far less than perfect. “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches? Do you want them in our world?” (245). Scout’s maturation shows the affirmation in Atticus’ (as well as Lee’s) flawed views. Lee never changed her point of view on the subject and she never altered Atticus’ either, but let Scout and the audience look at him through a more adult pair of eyes in Watchman than in Mockingbird. In the second novel, Harper Lee gives the reader another Atticus who is depressingly new yet monotonously old who becomes his own antithesis from her first novel (Kakutani). This Atticus parallels Lee’s views on repulsive aspects of race and segregation and gives a clearer

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