Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:February 5th, 2015 11:58 EST
Will 'Go Set A Watchman,' Harper Lee`s First Novel, Make a Good Companion to 'Mockingbird?'

Will 'Go Set A Watchman,' Harper Lee`s First Novel, Make a Good Companion to 'Mockingbird?'

By John G. Kays

I can`t wait to read Harper Lee`s new novel (not really new, you know), Go Set A Watchman, which will be published on July 14th (by HarperCollins)! Hearing whispers of such just a few days ago, I endeavored in some helpful research on the internet; as you can well imagine, every major newspaper and magazine is posting this welcome news! 

Reading many of these articles have help me to catch up on some things I probably already know, but have forgotten, although the knowledge is most likely filed away somewhere in my cranial archive! Well, to be honest with you, I haven`t read To Kill a Mockingbird since high school. 

Because of my age, this would push the date back in time to the late 1960s, not too awfully long after the novel created its provocative stir, even connecting with the Civil Rights movement (the south took a good shaking-up in those days - the recent film Selma is a good reminder for us as to what took place). Since this is the case, I snatched up Mockingbird on my Kindle (via Amazon) last night for a needed rereading (this one will be much more methodical).

Some have voiced concerns about Harper Lee allowing Go Set A Watchman to see the light of day, apparently, since it`s a much less polished novel than Mockingbird, and even got written well before TKM. It was actually sent to Harper first, then her editor, Tay Hohoff, suggested a different novel, targeting an earlier time in Maycomb (likely modeled after Monroeville, Alabama, Harper`s hometown), recollecting the childhood days of Scout Finch, in a time (early 1930s, during the Great Depression) when race relations were even less evolved than they were in the 1950s, the time setting for Watchman (this is difficult to fathom!)

This certainly represents another point of argument, favoring its release; ie, how does Harper Lee characterize the South in the 1950s, which would also be the time when she wrote it? And what about the manuscript getting less editing and/or rewriting? Aren`t we curious to find out what her writing is like with less massaging (tampering)? I am! I`m glad her publisher, HarperCollins, isn`t going to mess with it! 

This is a historically significant document; you can`t tamper with it, so it`s a wise move. And won`t high school and college English teachers appreciate this new novel, a harmonious companion to Mockingbird? You know the answer to that! So, before it hits the bookstores, I want to do my research, making sure I`ve got the original straight, as well as the biographical lowdown of Harper Lee (especially her days with Truman Capote).

I got started earlier this morning with a necessary geography lesson on Monroeville, Alabama, which I`ve never had the occasion to visit. Well, I didn`t even know where it was located, so that`s clearing up a bit now, it`s in southern Alabama. And the internet has some good photos of the small town; it`s so very Southern, whatever that means! 

It looks like a place where you could get in some productive writing; this would appear to be the case with Harper Lee. Must have been quiet as a mouse and meditative back in the late 1950s, I feel safe in uttering! As far as the point of view goes for Scout, who really seems like an adult, since she`s so smart and uses lots of big words, I suspect Watchman will give us insight into how Harper was able to pull that off. 

The point of view is, the telling of the Old South experiencing a painful metamorphosis, through a child`s eyes; a caveat to this notion, is this child can actually see into the future, once the South has fumbled through these changes, inexactly, naturally. Lee could not have achieved this brilliance, this personality channeling, without first writing Watchman

Therefore, we almost have to read Watchman, if we hope to really understand Mockingbird. One question I have, is, what`s the secret location of Harper Lee`s archive, where the once thought lost manuscript was discovered? Well, we better get started, `cuz we only got four months to go!