Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

The much anticipated book by Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman was released on July 14, 2015.

With a media storm for over a year now about this lost manuscript has come to a conclusion. Now that it is out, is it what people have been waiting for?

Go Set A Watchman
Harper Lee’s Novel

Harper Lee is the very successful author of To Kill A Mocking Bird. Published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird was the only book that Harper Lee published until Go Set a Watchman
, more than 50 years later. Lee wrote the books based on the racism that she saw growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. Much of Lee’s home life made it into both books. Finch, the main characters last name was her mother’s maiden name. Her father A.C. Lee was a defense lawyer in a case in Alabama where two black men, father and son, were accused of killing a white store keeper. A.C. Lee lost the case and the two men were hung. Her father moved on to become a title lawyer. Much like the character of Atticus Finch.

Dill, Scout’s childhood friend, was modeled after Lee’s own friend Truman Capote. In turn, Truman Capote created a character in his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms. Go Set A Watchman was actually completed before the manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird, and it was originally intended to be a trilogy with Mockingbird first, a short novella in the middle to connect the books and Watchman as the third book.

Go Set A Watchman takes place 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird. A grown up Scout is heading home from New York for her annual two week visit. When she returns home she is welcomed by her childhood friend/boyfriend to find that Atticus, her father is not well. Scout struggles as her town is moving on without her. Her father is in a new build home, having sold the family home and now it’s been converted into an ice cream shop. Because of Atticus’ condition he now lives with his staunch sister, Alexandra.

Peppered with flashbacks that bridge the gap between To Kill A Mocking Bird this book. In the flashbacks we see Scout trying to navigate a changing world. With the subject of racism from Mockingbird carried over into Watchman we also see Scouts views change as the subject of segregation starts spreading into the county. And Scout gets a good look at her father, is Atticus the person she thought he was?

The biggest controversy that is surrounding the book is that, is Atticus racist? The public outcry came after reading some of the remarks that Atticus said in the book. Rev Al Sharpton was quoted in the Observer: “Finch reflects the reality of finding out that a lot of those we thought were on our side harboured some personal different feelings.”.

There are other opinions that Go Set A Watchman was just a flawed draft of a book that was never suppose to be published. Galanty Miller from the Huffington Post argues just that. In Miller’s opinion Watchman is not a sequel to Mockingbird but “rejected experiment that Lee would use to perfect her writing and polish her ideas.” Miller goes onto argue his point comparing the rise of baseball player Alex Rodriguez to comparing the first draft Atticus to the Atticus we know in Mockingbird. Miller quoted: “when A-Rod retires, is it fair to include the first time he played catch in the backyard among his lifetime stats?”

Where does popular opinion fall in the tale of the two very different Atticus Finch’s? When the manuscript of Watchman was getting ready to be put to print it was only “lightly copy-edited”. This is shown in the inconsistency in the Atticus character’s behaviours as well as the mention of the case that Atticus defended in Mockingbird. The Tom Robinson’s trial in Mockingbird ends with Tom Robinson being convicted and was shot while trying to escape from jail. However, in Watchman Scout makes a comment when referring to the case and recounts it as Tom Robinson being acquitted of the charges.

There have been numerous requests for interviews since the release of Go Set A Watchman. Reporters are being turned down left and right, even Oprah herself, who has interview Lee in the past has received a decline to interview. Even a US reporter received a handwritten “Go away!”  signed by Harper Lee herself.

No matter which side of the fence you fall in the Atticus debate, it is still a must read. It gives another dimensions to the characters and a look into the evolution of Harper Lee’s writing style.

Please comment below on your thoughts about the book and what you think about the different sides of Atticus Finch.