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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee

Regardless of when Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman, it is impossible to believe it was not meant to serve as a second novel, follow-up on To Kill a Mockingbird

How else to explain its deftly placed updates on our favorite characters and the subtly interjected flashbacks? Without knowing the big-hearted, larger than life Atticus lionized in TKAM, how would the reader of GSAW understand the depths of Scout’s emotion seeing Atticus reduced to the size of a small-minded bigot?

Despite the book’s terrifically funny first chapters, Scout is mortally wounded mid-way through – and then left for dead by the unnamed narrator, who is presumably an older Jean Louise.

Read as a companion piece to Mockingbird’s satisfying morality play, the messy mixed message of GSAW is an unsettling shock to the conscience -- perhaps so shocking, Harper Lee thought better of publishing it. Why kill a mockingbird?

Well, as an African American reader who has long loved Lee’s first novel, I delight in this devastating addendum. I revel in this opportunity to put things in perspective – to return to Maycomb and see it as Tom Robinson and Calpurnia saw it. I celebrate Harper Lee for keeping it real.

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