Acclaimed author Harper Lee’s recently released novel Go Set a Watchman proved to be the publication that launched a thousand ships this past summer. Lee is known for authoring the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, a book read by millions of students and literary lovers worldwide.
The announcement of GSAWM’s release received extensive backlash, for many believed that the book was being published without Lee’s consent. When Lee first published TKM, she m
ade her intent clear that she did not plan to publish another book. GSAWM was brought to the attention of HarperCollins Publishers by Lee’s new attorney Tonja Carter, who replaced Lee’s former protector and sister Alice Lee who passed away in 2014.
GSAWM inserts readers into the mid-1950s, a period of racially-fueled tension in the South. Scout is a grown woman who returns to Maycomb to visit her father, Atticus Finch. Without giving any spoilers to those who may want to later peek into the “adult life of Scout Finch,” the novel contains characters drastically different from those of TKM. Atticus is a racist, Aunt Alexandra is more aware, and Uncle Jack fills the mentor role. Such sharp differences lead many literary enthusiasts to question whether GSAWM is just a first draft of TKM, not a sequel.
Viewing the book from a holistic standpoint, it is one filled with flashbacks to Scout’s childhood – including a reference to the rape trial in TKM – and a slough of banal babble that floods the beginning of the book. GSAWM portrays a run-of-the-mill coming of age story for Scout Finch and proves to be that disappointing “sequel” readers are no stranger to. Yet, what keeps GSAWM from being a total flop are the ending chapters of the book that contain a poignant message about racism and individual thought.
Despite the continuation of their stories in GSAWM, Scout – an iconic figure in literary history – will forever be memorialized in her days as a naive child and Atticus Finch will always be the standard for racial justice and equality in TKM.