How Writing Affects Effectiveness

The Assignment: write a one-page response after reading Go Set A Watchman- consider the effectiveness in comparison to To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee was a highly recognized author, despite only having published two books. Her most famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published in 1960 and depicted the formative years of Jean Louise Finch, a young girl also called Scout, in Alabama during the 1930s. After a 55 year hiatus, the companion to To Kill a Mockingbird was released, called Go Set A Watchman. Go Set A Watchman was essentially a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird written when Jean Louise, was a woman rather than a child. Both books portray the change and development of Jean Louise’s opinions and beliefs. Although both revolving around the same subjects, the writing in To Kill A Mockingbird is much more effective than in Go Set A Watchman.

One of the key factors on why To Kill A Mockingbird is so powerful is the author’s portrayal of the characters and the town. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, Scout’s father was regarded as a hero. He honorably defended an African-American man in court and taught his children valuable lessons about life. In contrast, Atticus in Go Set A Watchman is a frail old man with rheumatoid arthritis. He requires assistance doing everyday tasks, “‘Miss Alexandra has to tie his shoes and button his shirts when they’re like that. He can’t even hold a razor’”(Lee). In both books, Scout looks up to her father in the beginning with reason in To Kill A Mockingbird, and naively in the other novel. Atticus remains a guiding fixture in To Kill A Mockingbird while Scout grows into a young adult. In Go Set A Watchman, Scout’s former notion of Atticus as an accepting and resilient person is challenged. Also, Jem, Scout’s older brother, advised Scout throughout To Kill A Mockingbird and helped her understand the events that transpired whereas Jem was not present in Go Set A Watchman. Since Jean Louise does not have Jem’s leadership in the companion novel, the conclusions she comes to are less clear without her brother’s counsel.

Innocence is an influential factor in the writing of both books. As a young child, Scout is very innocent and has not yet developed complex thoughts. In comparison, Jean Louise is already a twenty-six-year-old established woman who no longer possesses her childhood innocence. Because of her little knowledge, Scout more readily gains new ideas and themes while Jean Louise already has her own beliefs and has a harder time accepting different ones. As To Kill A Mockingbird is a Bildungsroman novel, the story shows how Scout develops because of the events that she’s experienced and how her character is formed. Jean Louise’s revelations and what transpires in Go Set A Watchman will change her but will not build her character, since she has already developed her character. Therefore, themes prevalent in both To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman are much clearer in the former since Scout addresses and contemplates the truth of the themes.

Overall, the writing in  Go Set A Watchman differs from To Kill A Mockingbird and therefore the two books differ in how the ideas and the mess are conveyed. To Kill A Mockingbird focuses on the formation of everything Scout holds true while Go Set A Watchman addresses the upturning of everything Jean Louise held true. The end result is both equally esteemed novels of their own accord. However, because To Kill A Mockingbird is written the way it is, it will be easier to understand as a whole. The effectiveness of novels influences the reader’s understanding.


Collage, Character Map and Idiom Study

The Assignments:

  • Idiom Study: determine the meaning of 10+ idioms in the text and create a visual definition
  • Collage: using images/phrases and creativity surrounding one of the novel’s themes
  • Character Map: create a drawing of a character as you see him/her and add quotes which show words, actions, thoughts…

The Paradox of Democracy in the United States

The Assignment: write an analysis of a powerful quote from the text (To Kill A Mockingbird)

“Then Miss Gates said, ‘That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,’ she said. ‘Over here we don’t believe in prosecuting anybody.’” (Lee 281)

In Scout’s second grade class, the students became familiar with a current events article. Cecil Jacobs, one of Scout’s classmates, recounted an article about Hitler since World War II was just starting to begin. Miss Gates, Scout’s teacher was explaining the difference between Hitler’s Germany and the United States. Scout defined a democracy as “‘equal rights for all, special privileges for none’” (Lee 281) which Miss Gates declared America to be. However, at this time period, the segregation and discrimination of African Americans were still very common, contradicting what a democracy is. In fact, all of the white people in Maycomb had turned against Tom Robinson simply because Robinson was a colored man who was accused of raping a white girl. In the novel, what happened in class made Scout realize the subtleties of the world around her and the experience showed how she matured over time. Miss Gates talked about how everyone is equal in America when she was discriminating Tom Robinson in the previous weeks. Scout gained the insight that everything is not always what it seems. America seemed to be a democracy when people were still widely divided, and African Americans had fewer opportunities that whites did. Similarly, when Scout was younger, she viewed Boo Radley to be a monster of a man and as she grew older, she realized that Arthur Radley was just a person.