What’s the Story with Go Set a Watchman?
Everybody has an opinion about the “new” Harper Lee book, Go Set A Watchman, published this week and an instant bestseller with huge hype.
And that’s how it’s been since the manuscript was “discovered” in November.
Up for debate are many questions regarding this highly controversial second book by the author who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for To Kill A Mockingbird, and especially, whether it should have been published at all.
Q. Is this a new book? A sequel?
A. None of the above. It’s the original draft of To Kill A Mockingbird which was greatly revised and altered by Lee and by her editors before being published.
Q. How was it “discovered” and by whom?
A. Ah, therein lies much of the controversy. Lee, famously reclusive, always insisted that she would never publish another book. Her older sister Alice, an attorney who managed her business affairs and shared a home with her, underlined that vow. Two months after Alice died, the only other attorney in the office, Tonja Carter who took over managing Lee’s estate, claimed she’d discovered the Watchman manuscript among Lee’s papers.
Q.How is Watchman different from Mockingbird?
A.The original manuscript that has become Watchman is set about 15 years after Mockingbird. The narrative is written in the third person. Scout is an adult. Finch is no longer a courageous stalwart hero. He’s a stereotypical racist and aging, arthritic segregationist.
“It’s astonishing,” says Tucker, “that Finch goes from being the most revered character in American film, America’s moral hero concerning nation’s most vexing question, which is race, to being a petty bigot.
“It’s like saying James Bond has always worked as a double agent for the KGB or Harry Potter went to work for Voldemort.”
Q.Which one is the real Atticus Finch?
A. There is no real Atticus Finch. He’s a fictional character based on the author’s father.
The manuscript version makes him more complicated, a man of his time and place but with a sense of duty and belief in the rule of law.
The Mockingbird version presents him more sympathetically, emphasizing his best qualities, his moral compass and humanity.