Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)
Two decades after To Kill a Mockingbird, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns home to visit her father, Atticus Finch. It is a bittersweet trip that painfully challenges Scout’s values and her opinions of the people close to her.
Go Set a Watchman was an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was recently rediscovered and controversially published this year.
The writing felt messy and sluggish, but that isn’t surprising since it’s a rejected and unedited manuscript. The book particularly dragged in the second half, where the conversations were too long and unrefined (not to mention sickeningly racist).
The thing that upset readers most about Watchman was the characterization of Atticus Finch. America’s beloved ethical hero from Mockingbird is a racist in Watchman. Some people think Atticus must have always been racist and search for signs of it in Mockingbird; others think he may have transformed as he got older. I don’t think either is true, because I don’t think it’s the same character. Watchman was written before Mockingbird Atticus existed. Watchman was an early draft and the character evolved into something different before the final version, Mockingbird, was published. Regardless, one of the themes of Watchman is that if you idolize someone, you set yourself up to to be disappointed. There’s something to be learned from that.
I don’t think Watchman should have been published and reading it makes me appreciate Harper Lee’s editors who helped her transform her ideas into Mockingbird.
You might like this book if you are interested in…
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Life-altering realizations
- The American South
- Racists defending racist beliefs