Carey’s puppy, Scout, talks about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, GO SET A WATCHMAN and contemplates the question posed by Randall Kennedy in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:
Would it have been better for (Harper Lee’s) earlier novel (GO SET A WATCHMAN) to have remained unpublished?
Like my namesake before me, I know how to get into plenty of trouble, but I have a big heart. My human mother, Carey Baldwin, named me after the protagonist in her favorite book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Last night at dinner, Carey’s mother-in-law complained that I am such a pretty girl, I should have a pretty name.
Why on earth would you name this puppy Scout? she asked Carey over a plateful of pasta.
I know the answer, and I’m proud of my name.
Scout is the person who taught Carey about justice, fairness and integrity. When Carey was ten years old, she read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, a tale told through the eyes of a young girl named Scout (Like me! Only I’m a puppy.) Carey was young too, and boy did Scout make an impression. The vivid images in this exciting story stuck with Carey throughout her lifetime: toys hidden in the trunk of an old tree, a Halloween costume designed to look like a ham, a pair of britches stuck in a fence, and a father who could put everything that was wrong with the world right again.
We live in a world with many injustices, but sometimes, unless we’re the ones getting the raw deal, we remain unaware. Maybe the injustice is happening far away from where we live or go to school, maybe it’s close by, but we’re afraid to look at it, or maybe we simply don’t understand what’s right in front of us. Like the black marble drinking fountain three feet away from the white marble drinking fountain in a certain fancy department store in Carey’s hometown. Only after reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD did ten-year-old Carey notice.
Why are there two fountains? she asked her mother.
One is for whites and one is for colored people. That’s illegal now, but the fountains are still there, her mother answered. Sure enough, Carey could see the faded paint outlining a rectangular space on the wall that had once been occupied by a sign prohibiting blacks from drinking from the white fountain.
Carey grew up in a time and place where segregation in school, housing, and life was outlawed…yet still largely practiced. She didn’t know very many people who were different from herself, so she didn’t “see” a lot of things. Scout and Harper Lee taught her to open her eyes.
Randall Kennedy says:
“In America in 1960, the story of a decent white Southerner who defends an innocent black man charged with raping a white woman had the appeal of a fairy tale and the makings of a popular movie. Perhaps even more promising, though, was the novel Lee first envisioned (GO SET A WATCHMAN), the story of Jean Louise’s (Scout’s) adult conflicts between love and fairness, decency and loyalty. Fully realized, that novel might have become a modern masterpiece.”
“I think there’s a place for both books. I don’t believe we lost out because Harper Lee’s editor changed the time and setting of GO SET A WATCHMAN to that of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, or that Lee’s first attempt at the story should have remained unpublished. The truth is, Harper Lee’s vision and desire for fairness in the world comes through in both books. One is more polished, one has a hero, the other a flawed man and a conflicted daughter.
We need both books. We need all the windows we can get, because there’s simply not enough light in the world.”
Here’s a link to Kennedy’s full review of GO SET A WATCHMAN in the New York Times.
Have you read a book that has profoundly influenced your life?
P.S. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.