I decided to jump on the To Set a Watchman bandwagon and post my two cents about Harper Lee’s new/old novel. But first, a few warnings…
- Warning #1: I haven’t read the book yet
- Warning #2: I have read some significant plot points and spoilers about the book that I’m planning to discuss in detail in this blog which leads to…
- Warning #3: Spoilers ahead!
Okay, now that I got that out of the way, here are my thoughts in no particular order:
The Question of Harper Lee
Just to recap, the wildly reclusive author of To Set a Watchman stated numerous times that she never planned to publish again. One can assume that she said this while knowing that she had a finished manuscript that every publishing house in the United States would salivate to get their hands on.
Suddenly last year the manuscript is “discovered” and 89 year old Harper Lee who has significant vision and hearing problems following a 2007 stroke changed her mind and decided to publish. The courts in Alabama found no evidence of manipulation, but the cynic in me wonders. Is it okay to buy a book when I’m not 100% comfortable knowing that the author intended it to be read?
Say it Ain’t so, Atticus
This is where I was talking about spoilers…
From what I’ve read, the Atticus in To Set a Watchman is not the same man we met in To Kill a Mockingbird. Instead of a champion of human rights who fights racism, we find that Atticus Finch, himself, actually holds racist thoughts and opinions.
I broke down my thoughts on this into two camps: emotional and intellectual
- Emotional: I love Atticus Finch who is probably the most moral character to exist in modern literature. I don’t want to know that he has significant flaws. Don’t wanna, don’t wanna, don’t wanna. (Cut to Laura throwing herself down on the floor in a tantrum beating her feet and fists upon the pavement.)
- Intellectual: Atticus Finch is a character created by Harper Lee, and if my understanding is correct, the darker Atticus of To Set a Watchman was actually created first and may more accurately reflect Lee’s intended vision. At the end of the day, Finch is Lee’s creation and she is the only one who can walk around in his shoes, so to speak. Also, there is a little piece of me that finds the difference in how Atticus is portrayed as a fascinating commentary on the difference in how a parent is viewed by a young child versus a young adult.
Am I Going to Read The Book?
It’s not high on my to-do list, but I like to participate in the conversations of the moment. I read Gone Girl, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and am reading Girl on a Train. I saw the series finales of Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Parks & Recreation. I even read 50 Shades of Grey. So, yes, I’ll read To Set a Watchman.
But in doing so, I’m going to planfully separate the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird from the man portrayed in Lee’s second novel.
I very much want to keep on a pedestal the Atticus Finch seen through young Scout’s eyes. For me he will always remain the second greatest man who never lived.
As for the greatest man who never lived?
Let’s just say, please don’t screw around with George Bailey.