Our 10 Favorite Lines From ‘Go Set A Watchman’
Harper Lee’s prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird is far from perfect, but the book does have some memorable scenes and lines worth adding to your Southern lexicon.
A prequel. A first draft of Mockingbird. A book in need of editing. Call Watchman what you want, but it’s here and worth reading if you want to know what everyone is talking about. Publisher Harper Collins has admitted that they didn’t edit Harper Lee’s draft found earlier this year, an important fact to keep in mind while reading. That doesn’t just mean typos or grammatical errors — there aren’t any of those — but it does mean flashbacks that run on too long and lose the plot, dialogue that’s hard to follow and a storyline that leaves the reader a bit baffled. That said, Watchman still deserves a place in Southern literary history and contains glimpses of Lee’s genius as a writer. Below are 10 of our favorite passages that will make you laugh, ponder the meaning of life and remember the Atticus we all know and love.
1. “When Alexandra went to finishing school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its meaning; she was never bored, and given the slightest chance she would exercise her royal prerogative: she would arrange, advise, caution, and warn.” – Chapter 3
Other characters in Watchman have evolved, but not Aunt Alexandra. She’s mean as a snake in this book and as repressed as ever.
2. “It was unnecessary to call Dill. The cabbages trembled in Miss Rachel’s garden, the back fence groaned, and Dill was with them. Dill was a curiosity because he was from Meridian, Mississippi, and was wise in the ways of the world … He was a short, square-built, cotton-headed individual with the face of an angel and the cunning of a stoat.” – Chapter 5
Dear old Dill. Where are you and how could they forget to tell you about Jem?
3. “There’s nothing like a blood-curdling hymn to make you feel at home, thought Jean Louise.” – Chapter 7
True for anyone who grew up in a small town in the South.
4. Atticus Finch’s secret of living was so simple it was deeply complex: where most men had codes and tried to live up to them, Atticus lived his to the letter with no fuss, no fanfare, and no soul-searching. His private character was his public character. His code was simple New Testament ethic, its rewards were the respect and devotion of all who knew him.” – Chapter 9
There’s the Atticus we all want to marry.
5. Had she insight, could she have pierced the barriers of her highly selective, insular world, she may have discovered that all her life she had been with a visual defect which had gone unnoticed and neglected by herself and by those closest to her: she was born color blind.” – Chapter 10
Jean Louise struggles with this fact throughout most of the novel, but it’s her best quality.
6. “You who called me Scout are dead and in your grave.” – Chapter 12
Jean Louise isn’t taking Atticus’s participation in the Maycomb Citizens’ Council lightly.
7. “It was not because this was where your life began. It was because this was where people were born and born and born until finally the result was you, drinking a Coke in the Jitney Jungle.” – Chapter 12
The Jitney Jungle gets a lot of play in this novel, a symbol of the time period and real chain of grocery stores started in Jackson, Mississippi.
8. “The magpies arrived at 10:30, on schedule. Jean Louise stood on the front steps and greeted them one by one as they entered. They wore gloves and hats, and smelled to hight heaven of attars, perfumes, eaus, and bath powder. Their makeup would have put an Egyptian draftsman to shame … ” – Chapter 13
We all feel Jean Louise’s pain as she sits through a coffee for “girls who came home” hosted by Aunt Alexandra and finds out just how different she is from all the women she went to school with.
9. “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscience.” – Chapter 18
Lee hits us over the head with the book’s title a bit, but these words of wisdom from Uncle Jack mean he can form a coherent sentence.
10. “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.” – Chapter 18
Chew on that one for a while.