I’m not going to lie, I’ve spent the past week enthralled with the “Go Set A Watchmen” audiobook, which is the Harper Lee novel written before “To Kill a Mockingbird” but set 20 years after the iconic story. The protagonist of Lee’s latest published novel is Gene Louise, more familiar to the masses as the infamous Scout, the youngest Finch child and tom-boy daughter of Atticus Finch. Jean Louise is a strong 26 year old who doesn’t want to marry the obvious love of her life since childhood because she worries about marriage ruining their relationship, and ultimately finding someone better a few years and kids later.
I’m fan-girling Jean Louise because the novel is focalised through her “Colour Blind” perspective. Most of us have read the story of Scout’s childhood a story of compassion, empathy and the human spirit centred around her father’s defence of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl. But “Go Set A Watchman” is focused on Jean Louise coming into her own as a woman, citizen and individual.
Why do I love Jean Louise? Because her thoughts are reflective of her childhood moments that readers of Lee’s first novel didn’t get to witness: learning about her period, her first dance, her first kiss…All things that seem mundane in any other sense but through a totally new and invigorating perspective.
This post is undoubtedly about the woman Jean Louise Finch, but more so about the undying ability of novelists, creators, artists everywhere to capture moments. Jean Louise steps off the train in her hometown and changes from time-period appropriate stockings and skirts to slacks. Skinny dipping, toying with her man friend, and being the “Lena Dunham” of her time. She has the ability to say whatever’s on her mind because the “Scout” that we know her as was depicted as a tom-boy, as having male features and behaviours, and this story is about her breaking away from it but still holding on to the confidence and seamless attention awarded to men.
So go read this book because it seriously has made my entire life, and the next time you sit down to write from a character’s perspective try to think of where, what, and how that character has seen in the world, and how that shapes who they are.