7 Thoughts On Go Set A Watchman

1. Makes me feel sick. I subconsciously mirror story characters I feel I can relate to. So if the main character is sick, I start to feel stifled, hot, and claustrophobic. Not fun.

2. Ruins To Kill A Mockingbird. I will never be able to read To Kill A Mockingbird the same way again. Kinda makes me regret reading Go Set A Watchman.

3. Has traits of a sequel… but isn’t. Know those books that come out a while after a bestseller, the ones that the author probably didn’t plan to write until he saw how successful the first one turned out? Or, even worse, the books written after the author of the bestseller is dead – because one would feel strange writing the unwanted sequel to their book while they were still living, I suppose – by some random idiot off the street looking for a little extra cash on the side? Go Set A Watchman almost has this feel but I can’t accuse it of either, as I know that it was written previous to To Kill A Mockingbird. Still, certain elements seem fishy. Killing off Jem, for instance. The sudden appearance of Hank, who was a lifelong friend of Jean Louise’s – but suspiciously never  made an appearance in To Kill A Mockingbird?

4. On parenting. Atticus is, like, the model parent. He never overreacts. Parents the world over could stand to learn a thing or two from Atticus when it comes to his parenting skill.

5. Is boring. Politics are not my thing, so, yeah, a lot of this book was way over my head.

6. Makes us realize all over again why we love Jem. He tells Scout he’ll look out for her. He helps Scout out of a certain… dilemma. Makes his football teammates dance with his little sister – “his quiet way of making sure she had a good time.” Sweet beyond words.

7. Is Jean Louise’s journey from child-like innocence to adulthood, To Kill A Mockingbird was Jem’s. To Kill A Mockingbird focuses on Scout’s childhood, while the glimpses into the past we get in Go Set A Watchman, point more towards Scout’s girlhood and adolescent, the tougher years for Jean Louise.

I don’t know what to say, honestly. Like I said, large portions of the book I found very boring because they were very political and I am so not smart enough to keep up with Jean Louise and Atticus’ arguments.

On the other hand, some parts of this book are in exactly the same vein as To Kill A Mockingbird, picking up right where it left off.

Part of me never wants to see the book again. The other part wants to run over to Barnes and Noble and get it to be the companion of my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.

I am Scout. I idolized Atticus. He was my hero. He was perfect, in my mind. But only because Lee paints him that way! If she had only given us some kind of a hint… Go Set A Watchman wouldn’t be so devastating. But that was the point, I guess. To set you up for a fall. Entice you into thinking Atticus was one thing, only to shove your face in that fact that he was only a man, after all.

5 Thought-Provoking Themes In Gone With The Wind

1. Why Scarlett?

Honestly, I can’t figure out why Scarlett is the main character of this story. Scarlett represents moral depravity and emptiness. On one hand, I can sympathize – sort of – with Scarlett. Wouldn’t I do the same things under similar circumstances? Isn’t survival the goal? But then the question is, at what cost will survival come? And just how much of yourself are you willing to lose? On the other hand, her stubborn refusal to change her ways and her animal will to survive, make her particularly unappealing to me. Perhaps because I see a little too much of myself in her.

So why Scarlett? Why not Melanie? Even Mitchell admitted that Melanie was intended to be the heroine of the story. Or Rhett? Rhett presents a vastly more fascinating character study than does Scarlett. Though extremely similar there is one fundamental difference between Rhett and Scarlett. Both are immoral, yes. But Rhett is aware of his own fallen-ness, while Scarlett goes around in complete oblivion to her own sins. This makes Rhett somehow much more appealing to me. Pretty much everything you know about Rhett is inferred. In fact, I have a great many questions about Rhett that would very much like answering. Mitchell could’ve written a whole book about his backstory and I wouldn’t have complained!
2. Two Different Kinds Of Strength

A recurring theme of Gone With The Wind is the contrast between people who fall into one of two categories. Though Ashley, Rhett, and Scarlett, by all appearances, would seem to be the strongest, it is they who are reduced to nothing more than frightened children in the face of circumstances beyond their own control. Melanie is the one whose strength the others seek out in their pain, the one they run to for safety and security.
Melanie – and also Scarlett’s mother, though only briefly – represents strength of a different sort in this story. Scarlett hates Melanie because she does not understand her. She senses that Melanie is stronger than herself, but cannot understand this because she sees that Melanie is sickly, weak, and unattractive. This demonstrates a perplexing contradiction. Those who appear weak, may if fact be the strongest among us. In their physical weakness they develop an inner strength few else ever achieve. While, on the other hand, those who seem strong are only so on the outside.
3. Pursuing Happiness

I think the most prevalent theme in Gone With The Wind is Scarlett’s continuing search for happiness and fulfillment in her life, and her complete inability to change this all-consuming desire to find it. Her famous quote about “tomorrow,” which, according to common opinion, represents her refusal to give in even under crushing circumstances, meant something entirely different to me. It showed that she had not changed and was almost… dare I say it? – incapable of change. Which is kind of scary, if you think about it. It shows her refusal to face the fact that she has become a monster in her desperate will to survive. It’s really kind of disappointing, because it almost seems like, at the very end there, that she has changed. She finally sees that Rhett has been there all along and that they were meant to be together… and then to close the book in such a way – ugh! Totally dashed all my hopes for redemption for Scarlett. That is her outlook, however. That she will change – tomorrow. Be a better person – tomorrow. Think about it – tomorrow. And so she continues in her cycle of simply trying to survive, trying to find happiness… but never does. Like in her recurring dream, happiness is ever-receding before her. She can never grasp it, because she is searching for happiness in all the wrong places, demanding it from other people who can’t find it in themselves to give her.

4. Religious Background

While Gone With The Wind is not by any means a Christian book there is a lot of religious content. I suppose because at that time, individuals were so steeped in religion, from childhood on, that to be historically acurate and to honestly capture the flavor of the time, religion could not be left out. Scarlett has this twisted view of God. She views Him as a God of judgment and fiery wrath. God is someone she is afraid of. This seems to be at least partially due to her Catholic upbringing, and her own admission that in some ways, she viewed her mother as God, and worshiped her as such.

Rhett, on the other hand, though he claims to be an atheist, is shockingly insightful. When Scarlett, in a moment of weakness, confides to Rhett that she is afraid she will go to hell for the awful things she has done, he gently points out that those things were done in a desperate attempt to survive very hard times and asks her why she thinks “the Lord” wouldn’t be capable of understanding why she did them. “The Lord” is rather a familiar, almost a caressing, term for someone who says he doesn’t believe in God, to use. But again, with Rhett, all we can do is assume.

5. How To Kill Your Characters

One thing I particularly admired about Gone With The Wind is that Mitchell did not kill off any of her main characters. It would have been easy to. All of the main characters encountered situations in which she very easily could have made the decision to pull their plug. But she chose not to. Writers know that killing your characters is really the easy way out of any kind of difficulty – coming especially in handy when dealing with romantic relationships. Don’t know which guy of the two to choose? Kill one! Somebody in the way? Kill ’em!

It seems admirable to those observing from the outside. “Aw, everybody dies… And, and, it’s just so sad.” But we who know understand the ulterior motive.

Instead of killing main characters, Mitchell kills off characters that you are not particularly fond of, but that the main characters are fond of. This is brilliantly played because it allows us to observe the main character’s grieving process.

Another situation in which this is artfully done is in Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. Neither Katniss, nor Gale, nor Peeta, die. And at least one could have been killed off by Collins without any real suspicion from the audience. Not to mention that it would’ve been convenient, as we have a love triangle here that could only benefit from one of the boys dying so that neither has to be heartbroken when Katniss doesn’t pick him. Instead, Collins chooses to kill off Prim, who Katniss loves fiercely, Finnick and Boggs, who she has grown to care about, Cinna, her only real friend in the Capitol, and nearly all the supporting casts in each of the three books.

So…

Most of us are familiar with the story and it’s easy to get caught up with the book as merely an entertaining and classic romance with familiar characters and a captivating plotline. But if you look past the familiarity, there are some aspects of this story that really get you thinking. One downside is that I found Gone With The Wind to be rather boring, but overall I think it is worth a read.

Wuthering Heights… Is Haunting

Wuthering Heights is the story of Cathy Bradshaw, a willful young woman who destroys everyone around her, and Heathcliff, an orphan boy who falls in love with Cathy. When she rejects Heathcliff, he becomes determined to win her back, and, when she is dead, destroy her family – leaving us to wonder: what kind of love is it that destroys that which it loves?

This was a disturbing read on a number of levels for me. Obviously, Heathcliff’s almost demonic obsession with Cathy gets a little weird, but even aside from that, it bothers me that I don’t really want to like this book – there are so many things about it that drive me crazy – but some small part of me is fascinated despite myself.

The whole book has this weird, dark tone that I find strangely appealing, and I do like the story itself, but anything good I can say about this book has to be canceled out by a number of huge issues that I can find no way around.

1. Point Of View

Point of view is crucial. Most writers are aware of this fact, and all of them must recognize how crucial it is, or fail at their craft.

Perspective can be confusing in Wuthering Heights because there are literally layers of it. The story is actually being told from the perspective of a completely random character we know nothing about, a young tenant of Heathcliff’s. However, it isn’t terribly obvious that the story is being told from his perspective, because most of the story is told from the perspective of the Bradshaw family’s maid, Nelly. Nelly is telling Cathy and Heathcliff’s story to the young man. So, in other words, most of the story is in the form of dialogue. Or monologue, rather.

Bronte made, in my opinion, a peculiar decision when she had Nelly tell the story. Though Nelly was deeply invested in the inner workings of this family and familiar with Cathy’s story because she witnessed most of it, she still does not seem the right person to tell this story.

I’m sure that there are those who would strongly disagree with that assessment. Some people may view Nelly’s being the narrator the best thing Wuthering Heights has going for it. I’m sorry to say that this is probably my biggest issue with it.

If the story was written entirely from Nelly’s perspective, the inconsequential little servant girl watching from the fringes, and was telling it as it occurred, it might just have been a brilliant move – it would have worked well with the tone of the rest of the story, flowed well to have the distant observer, someone on the outside, telling the story. But having Nelly tell the story as an old woman was a big mistake.

2. Let Me Tell You A Story

Nelly is orally passing the story on to a young man staying at the house she takes care of, which makes it seem like Nelly is just casually telling it as nothing more than common hearsay or gossip. This “story” is something she was apart of, she is relating the most painful events of her life. And she is doing it in the calmest manner possible! I’d like to see a little emotional investment or something!

3. Interruptions

Because Nelly is supposedly telling the story to this guy – who is a completely useless character, by the way – and the story is too involved to tell all at once, she actually takes several breaks from telling it.

During these pauses, we temporarily return to present time, which is thoroughly frustrating because we were just starting to actually be interested in this story and we really couldn’t care any less about some random guy having a cold, or taking a nap, or a walk, or whatever!

This phenomenon is also extremely distracting. All the jerks back to present time are jarring. Random Dude and Older Nelly don’t fit into this story.

For those of you who would argue that these pauses build up suspense, you’re wrong. They don’t. They simply kill all the momentum the story was gaining.You can’t mix present and past like that – unless the past comes to us in the form of flashbacks, which it does not in Wuthering Heights.

4. One Good Memory

Another thing about Nelly: how has she remembered all this so perfectly? She recounts her story in vivid detail, including people’s exact words. I know of very few people, especially elderly women, who have that perfect of a memory concerning things that happened when she was in her teens and twenties.

5. Nelly: Both Sides

Nelly is the impartial mediator between Heathcliff and Cathy in this story. She doesn’t actually like either Cathy or Heathcliff, and while her cold indifference to both of them isn’t exactly admirable, it does allow her to coolly observe the whole thing without bias. So maybe she is the person to tell this story after all. Even when Heathcliff despises everyone else, he regards Nelly with something like fondness. Even when Cathy stubbornly refuses to submit to anyone else, she is swayed by Nelly’s opinion. Nelly plays, albeit reluctantly, both sides. She serves alternately as Heathcliff or Cathy’s partner in crime; she is traitorous – and brilliant.

In the end, all of these distractions take away from the haunting beauty of Cathy and Heathcliff’s story. It just goes to show that the details are everything and that little mistakes can ruin the whole story. I like the story, I just don’t like how it’s told.

Robinson Crusoe: Worst Hero Of All Time

“Hero: An ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances and acting with courage, honor, and self-sacrifice.”

I have read some awful books in my time. I expect that most people who read books inevitably encounter books that, for one reason or another, they think are poorly done and come away with a very unfavorable feeling about the book, perhaps even the author or the genre. I am no exception – if I find a book boring or the writing weak or the dialogue unrealistic then I will rarely read that book a second time. As a general rule, I like to give an author at least two chances, but if the book is really bad, I may just make the decision to avoid that author in the future. That said, I do not believe I have ever encountered a book I hated as much as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

Yes, it was that bad.

Not only could I not get over his sloppy, rambling writing style that prominently featured the most horrendous punctuation I have ever seen, gross overuse of capitalization – every single noun is capitalized, be it animate or not – and sentences that run on for entire paragraphs, making it an agonizingly slow and frustrating read, but the hero – Robinson Crusoe – does not deserve the name at all.

Heroes Are Courageous: Crusoe is one of the weakest, most cowardly “heroes” I have ever encountered. Scared to the point of passing out of a storm at sea, he is also terrified of lions – even though they are on land and he is on the water. He even goes so far as to openly admit that the only reason he saved Friday – his only friend – is because he thinks he can use him, otherwise he would have been too afraid to intervene.

Heroes Sacrifice For The Other Person: Crusoe is something of a control freak. Though he is on equal footing with both Xury and Friday he makes them both his slaves. What makes him think that he is in any position to do such a thing, I have no idea. Crusoe seems to think any kindness on his part is a great benevolence – when in fact it is the least he could do for them, as they are his superiors, both in intelligence and resourcefulness.


Heroes Are Resourceful: Commonly lauded as incredibly resourceful, I found that Crusoe was nothing of the sort. Left on his own, he is almost entirely helpless; instead he relies heavily on first Xury, and later, Friday.


Heroes Have A Purpose: As a young man, Crusoe willfully and deliberately disobeys his well-meaning father who advises him to settle down and be an honest businessman. Instead, Crusoe runs off to sea, where all his troubles begin.


Heroes Are Not Delusional: It is apparent that Crusoe has actually gone stark raving mad after so many years alone on a deserted island – he has started referring to the trees and animals on the island as his “subjects,” calling himself a “king” and a “ruler” and his cave a “castle.”

Why is Robinson Crusoe such an enduring classic? I can’t imagine anyone admiring this man.

What do you think makes a hero? Does Crusoe fit the bill? Who is your favorite hero in literature?

Oliver Twist: Nancy Steals The Show

Oliver Twist is a book I have been wanting to read for some time. I have always been familiar with the story but somehow reading it always slipped through the cracks; there were other, more exciting books to read, I suppose.

This year has plunged me headlong into Dickens works. A friend and I wanted to read a book together and we selected – okay, she selected – A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. I had never read anything by Dickens before. And, I will admit, A Tale of Two Cities was perhaps not the best introduction – I hated it. Shortly thereafter, I randomly decided that over the holidays, I would read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. Later in the year, Oliver Twist was assigned to me for school. So it has been a Dickens-y kind of year.

Where A Tale of Two Cities was cold and distant, Oliver Twist is up close and personal, emotional and lurid. In A Tale of Two Cities, I couldn’t have cared less about stiff, wooden characters like Lucie and Darnay; in Oliver Twist, I found myself irresistibly drawn into Nancy’s world. Though Rose Maylie and Brownlow, Harry, Mrs. Maylie, and even the supposed main character, Oliver, fall into the same category as Lucie from A Tale of Two Cities – characters that bored me and I did not care about – Fagin and Charley, Bill and the Dodger, and, of course, Nancy, more than made up for them.

Though the book bears his name, Oliver is a pathetic little weakling, too angelic to be interesting or even realistic. Described as sturdy when a little boy, Oliver becomes increasingly sickly as the story progresses, fainting like a woman at the least provocation. It is painfully obvious, from the moment they take the stage, that Nancy, or perhaps Fagin, is the true focus of this story. And while Fagin could never be called its hero, Nancy is most definitely a heroine.

Something I am finding to be true of Dickens in my limited experience, is that, while his dryly sarcastic writing style never varies, he writes characters that fall into one of two extremes – the saintly Rose Maylies, Olivers, and Lucies, and the startlingly lifelike Bills and Fagins and Nancys. It is obvious that there was a woman in Dickens’ life that he idolized somewhat, and, drawing from life as all authors subconsciously do, this woman has made her way, under different aliases, into Dickens’ works. So far, I have found her in Rose Maylie and Lucie Manette. I would assume that she appears in his other works as well. Similarly, one could probably find an “Oliver” in many of his books,  or a “Nancy.”

Obviously, the main attraction of Oliver Twist is its portrayal of the criminal element. The reason it has been either fiercely loved or intensely hated for so long is because Dickens – without apology –  humanizes the criminals. Shocking in his day, this probably tends to be more fascinating in ours. I certainly found it to be. But then again, I have always had something of a tendency to secretly admire the “bad guy.” Stories like Robin Hood were always particularly appealing, as they depicted the “good outlaw.” There is something magnetic about their charming, carefree, daredevil ways. Something about them that makes you care. I fell head-over-heels for the cast of Oliver Twist. The man-of-the-world Dodger, happy-go-lucky Charley, tough Bill, heroic Nancy. Dickens turns this motley band of criminals into actual people. People like you and me who have strong loyalties and affections, are afraid, get lonely, seek warmth, love, and companionship. Monks is scared of being alone, Bill shares his food with his dog, Charley despises Bill for the murder of his friend, Nancy refuses to betray her friends of leave “her man.”

I am left with only one question – whatever happened to the Dodger?

Have you read Oliver Twist? Who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? How do you feel about making crime romantic and criminals appealing?