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Author Topic: Harper Lee's First Look at Race Relations  (Read 511 times)

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August 16, 2015, 05:52:25 PM

paint it Black

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When To Kill a Mockingbird was released in 1960, the Civil Rights movement was flourishing and many Americans were really beginning to examine questions about race.  As a result, in some ways it was the right book to resonate with Americans at the right time.  Do you think the author's views on Civil Rights may have changed in the three years between the writing of her two books?  In your opinion, did the focus on this issue change significantly in To Kill a Mockingbird?

For the white characters in Go Set a Watchman, is Civil Rights more about politics than human rights?  What about for the black characters?

How (if at all) might Go Set a Watchman resonate with the current state of race relations in the US?  Is 2015 a relevant time in history for this book to be released?

Please share any other ideas you may have on Harper Lee's focus on race relations right here.

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May 27, 2016, 12:30:55 AM
Reply #1

Laura W

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I do agree that Go Set a Watchman was far more about politics than To Kill a Mockingbird.  Especially about States Rights verses Federal Rights in the US.  (I may have forgotten, but I don't recall that being the "issue" in TKAM.)

Obviously Watchman was also about race relations.  How the white people of that small southern community (including Atticus Finch) saw themselves as white Americans and how they saw the  black people who lived in the same community.  Lee certainly didn't pull any punches on that score in my opinion!  And she undoubtedly painted a very accurate, albeit shameful, picture .... probably based on what she herself saw, heard and experienced growing up in her southern community.

But then she inserted the politics.  Hmm.  Even the "colour blind" Scout was against any kind of equal rights for black Americans (sort of) if these Civil Rights were to be imposed on States by the federal government.  And, by the end of the book, Jean Louise also seemed to agree with Atticus' view that Civil Rights for black Americans should not be implemented too quickly.  Really?  Too quickly? Both Atticus and his daughter need some serious lessons in American history to see how Civil Rights for non-whites had moved at the speed of the slowest snail from the time of slavery till the mid-1950s when this novel takes place.

I'm glad that Mockingbird was more about human rights than politics.  I think it was a much more important issue that Lee focused on and fleshed out in her second novel.