Go Set A Watchman
From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ Go Set A Watchman Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
Go Set A Watchman (2015) | Written by: Harper Lee | Published by: Harper Collins
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
Thug Notes Summary & Analysis
Wassup y’all? Today on Thug Notes we bringin it back to da South Side with Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.
Now if you an OG Mockingbird fan, you prolly ‘spectin this book to be written from the perspective of Scout, or “Jean Louise” as she called these days. But it ain’t like dat, girl: In this book, we gettin da lowdown from a third person omniscient narrator.
Anyway, it’s sometime in the 1950s and 26 year old Jean Louise Finch dun peaced outta da boonies of Alabama and now she keepin it street up in New York. But girl ain’t forgotten her roots, so she hop on a train and swang back home to Maycomb County to chill wit her daddy Atticus, whose ol’ crusty ass all jacked up with rheumatoid arthritis now.
Up at da station, Jean get scooped up by Henry Clinton, a back when friend of Jean and lawyer who work fo’ Atticus. This dude don’t want nuthin’ mo than to make Jean his biddy fo’ life. Homeboy might not be no swanky uptown playa like they do up in New York, but he got solid rep up in Maycomb and his love fo’ Jean is legit.
So Jean drop in at da old crib where Atticus’s sister Alexandra also livin’ since SOMEBODY gotta wipe Atticus’s ass. Atticus all like “Girl. You hear bout what goin down with this whole segregation talk up in the supreme court?” Jean like “Sho’ nuff, pops. Brown vs. Board of Education is my jam.”
Round this time, we hera bout how Jean’s lil bro Jem died years ago. And cuz o dat, da finch’s black cook Calpurnia got all to’ up, chunked deuce, and ain’t nobody seen her since.
Later, errybody gettin’ they church on when they meet up with Uncle Jack Finch, Atticus’s brutha from the same mutha. Afta’ all dat holy rolling, Jean peep game at a pamphlet in Atticus’s living room called “The Black Plague.” And this sh** is exactly as racist as it sound. Jean like “Alexandra! Da hell dis mess doin up in mah daddy’s house?” Alex like “Why you trippin girl? That’s some truth right there. Blacks people ain’t sh** compared to white people.” OH. NO. SHE. DIDN’T.
Alexandra say da pamphlet came from somethin’ called the Citizen’s Council. Since they meetin’ now,
Jean head to the courthouse where sho’ nuff, Atticus, Henry and all da Maycomb big dawgs sitttin round a long table talk bout how blacks ain’t nuthin’ but cockroaches. Atticus. You were my man, and now you practically attending Klan meetings? ET TU, BRUH?
Jean so to’ up by what she see, she throw up, book it home, and pass da fu** out.
Jean wake up Monday and get word that Calpurnia’s grandson accidentally wrecked someone’s sh** wit his hoopty, and now Atticus gonna take the case just so the NAACP don’t get involved. Jean go see Calpurnia to show a girl some love, but Cal don’t want nuthin to do wit a racist-ass Finch. When Jean like “Cal whatcha doin to me? Calpurnia ll “Girl, what y’all doin to US?” Jean feelin’ lonesome as hell.
So she hit up her uncle Jack and be all like “Yo. Da hell has my daddy been smokin? How da hell did he become a racist all da sudden?” Girl don’t get no straight answer, so she roll over to Atticus’s office fo’ some real talk. Cept, da only bruh there is Henry, and she lay it on him raw sayin she ain’t neva’ gonna marry a lil racist bitch.
When Atticus drop in, Jean like “Pops! Da fu** you think you doin’ wit dat council?” Atticus like “Look girl. This ain’t no front. I think da blacks ain’t as legit as da whites. Straight up.” Jean just bout loses her sh** and tells him dat she ain’t never gonna forgive him. I mean, she used to look up to Atticus. Hell. We all did.
So she book it back home and start packin her sh** to go back to New York. Uncle Jack drop in and give her five across the face to calm her ass down. Afta’ girl spits out some blood, Jack po’s up some henny and explains what’s goin down. He tell her dat she spent her whole life worshipping Atticus like a god, but truth is, he was bound to disappoint her sooner or later. So she gotta sack up and become her own person.
Afta dat, Jean bout to driv Atticus home from work when pops say: “look girl. Even though you said some messed up sh** to me, I’m proud of you. You stood up fo what you think is right, and that’s how a real G rolls.” JEan like “Ah hell, pops. I love you even though you a racist piece of sh**.” THE END.
Now if you ain’t already know, there’s a lotta smack talk goin bout how shady this book’s publication was. But is it all bullsh**? Let’s take a look:
Fact number 1: Harper Lee is old as sh**. Girl lives in an assisted living home, and has been fo a while. Afta’ a stroke in 2007 leavin her sight and ability to hear all jacked up, she ain’t exactly at the top of her game. Of course, that don’t mean she can’t make her own decisions, but it sho as hell don’t make it easier.
Way back in 2002, Harper’s lawyer Alice, who was also her sistah, said Harper would pretty much sign any ol pap you slang in front of her. But when sis died in 2014, legal control went to Tonja, a junior partner in Alice’s firm, and SHE da one who started hustlin’ da manuscript. Most importantly, Harper Lee spent da last couple DECADES sayin she neva’ wanted the book to see the light of day.
But what even IS this thing? Is it a legit sequel? Well that’s definitely what some folk thought; but truth is, this sh** was written BEFORE To Kill a Mockingbird. See, Harper’s editor read dis manuscript back in 1957, told Lee it sucked, and made her rewrite it til 1960, when To Kill a Mockingbird hit the shelves. So THAT’S why some of Watchman sound EXACTLY like the original.
I mean, peep this, son. These paragraphs are almost THE EXACT SAME THING.
So we most likely lookin at is an early draft of Mockingbird that was chopped n’ screwed so dat somebody can get in on dat sweet sequel money
Anyway, back to the book. When Jean Louise get back home, girl cain’t stop buggin’ bout how different errything be:
“My aunt is a hostile stranger, my Calpurnia won’t have anything to do with me, Hank is insane, and Atticus – something’s wrong with me, it’s something about me. It has to be because all these people cannot have changed.” (167)
Jean Louise recognize dat if she thinkin bout marrying Henry’s crazy racist ass, she gonna have to change HERSELF to make it work
‘Is that what loving your man is…[y]ou mean losing your own identity, don’t you?’ ‘In a way, yes,’ said Henry.” (227)
Man, fu** DAT. Eventually, girl drops dat scrub sayin she gotta keep it 100 erry day and stay true to what she know is right.
And dat’s what da title all about. Like Uncle Jack say, “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.” (265)
Going to set a watchman basically mean stickin’ to yo guns and defining what you think is right and what you think is wrong. Look, as time go by, things and people gonna change. And when they do, you gotta make sho’ you don’t just go with the flow. You gotta be willing to roll solo to defend what you know is right.
And there ain’t no change harder fo’ my girl than accepting dat her daddy Atticus ain’t perfect. Like Jean say:
“But a man who has lived by truth – and you have believed in what he has lived – he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing.” (179)
She spent her whole life lookin’ up to this cat, and now since he sippin on dat haterade actin’ all racist and sh**, she gotta keep it real, and make it damn clear that she ain’t bout dat. But like I said, it’s gonna be a bitch.
Dat’s why all throughout this book da words “Childe Roland” poppin’ up, which allude to a dope poem by Robert Browning called “Childe Roland to the dark Tower Came” where a dude gotta beast through a journey to a dark tower without any of his boys to get his back, and when he gets there, he prolly dies. Likewise, Jean also gotta go on a solo quest- hence why she feelin all alone- AND she gotta kill part of herself to succeed.
Now even though we don’t know what happen to Childe Roland when he make it to the dark tower, we sho know what happen to Jean-Louise – Uncle Jack tell her she more of a biggot than Atticus? Da hell?!
He say Jean-Louise doin her daddy straight dirty by focusing on ONE flaw. Just cuz Atticus is racist don’t mean he ain’t a baller in a million other ways. She used to think Atticus was a God. Now she know he just another flawed flesh n’ blood homie.
Now here’s da craziest part- we in the same position as Jean. Hear me out, playa: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of da dopest novels of all time- the movie is pretty damn legit too. And da biggest reason fo’ dat is Atticus Finch- a straight up WARRIOR fo’ equality and justice. Atticus made GOD knows how many kids wanna become lawyers.
So when racist Atticus came hot off the presses in Go Set a Watchman, some peeps started losin their damn minds, sayin Atticus was ruined, and Harper Lee’s legacy was dead. Thing is, that’s exactly the kinda thing Uncle Jack tells Jean-Louise at da end of the novel: even if someone got a whackass worldview, you should still give em a chance.
So is Uncle Jack right? Does Atticus deserve a chance? Can people who straight up support racism, sexism, and homophobia still be good people? Or does sh** like dat make a brutha automatically a monster? I know what I think, playa… but I ain’t gonna set yo watchman for ya.