--The Meursault Investigation
She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, "What would Atticus do?" passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshiped him.
--Go Set a Watchman
It was perhaps foolish to think our literary heroes would be immune to the profit-driven plot regurgitation that has become so common in Hollywood that it's cliche to comment on. But, alas, Babylon! Our Atticus has come back for a sequel. The internet was unhappy. Then it was seeing a silver lining. The dust has settled, the publisher is rich, and we'll probably have to wait twenty years to see what the scholars have to say.
Just before reading Go Set a Watchman, I came across The Meursault Investigaton, a sequel of sorts to The Stranger (plug: my senior thesis was on Camus's four most important works, including The Stranger), told from the victim's brother's perspective. The book is a wonderful, even if deeply critical, homage to The Stranger. In it, the reader is presented with Meusault's murder from the point of view of colonialized Algeria. Unsurprisingly, it is an unflattering portrait.
|Enlightened crusader for justice?|
Or patronizing racist?
The most obvious answer is the hero's creator. I would suggest that Go Set a Watchman is proof that this is the wrong answer. Go Set a Watchman's Atticus is a racist and resistant to change. He is inconsistent with To Kill a Mockingbird. He also does not represent the same ideal he represented in To Kill a Mockingbird: where before he represented astute moral judgment, now he represents a morality to cast aside.
This is not to say that the moral of Go Set a Watchman is bad or wrong or a bad story; it is, however, a poorly executed one. The inconsistencies with To Kill a Mockingbird coupled with the horrific narrative timing of Go Set a Watchman make this both a bad sequel and a bad novel. Although acceptable in the academic context of a first draft, it is unpalatable as a fully fledged second novel or a fully fledged sequel (as promised by the guileful marketers).
|Sisyphean hero of the absurd?|
Or imperialist pig?
And I think the reason we may reject this Atticus because it's not a good novel. It doesn't fit. It doesn't resonate. It does not speak to us the way To Kill a Mockingbird does.
In contrast, The Meursault Investigation does work. It is not a stand alone novel in the same way that sequels are not stand alone (I hesitate to call it a sequel though). But it supplements what The Stranger has to offer by both playing with the themes of The Stranger and criticizing them. (to be fair, Meursault himself never makes an appearance in the novel, thus preventing the risk of inconsistent characters). In this way, it is harder to reject
|Seriously: fuck this guy.|