I haven't read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, but I've read a good bit about readers' disappointment with the novel. Most of that disappointment comes from Ms Lee's "recasting" of the character, Atticus Finch, from a progressive-minded lawyer in a small, racist town, to being a racist himself.

I did recently read To Kill a Mockingbird and wrote a review of it. I loved the book as much as anyone and I was also taken aback to learn about its change in the Atticus character. But on reflection, and considering that Harper Lee wrote the Watchman novel first, I wondered if the fan horror was really so justified.

Megan Behrent, writing for the Socialist Worker website, has reviewed Go Set a Watchman and addresses the Atticus-change issue and others with the most insight and fairness that I've seen so far. I think she is right on the money when she says:

While Watchman may be disappointing, it's worth remembering that it is not a sequel. It is better understood as the first draft of what would become Mockingbird. In that sense, it gives us some insight into the motivations of Mockingbird--inspired by, it would seem, Harper Lee's attempt to come to terms with the vitriolic racism of her Southern hometown.


Go Set a Watchman was Harper Lee's starting point in exploring these themes--not her final word. If Atticus was transformed in the process, so, it seems, was Lee. That To Kill a Mockingbird is a far more powerful indictment of the Jim Crow South isn't just a literary question.

It seems to me that Go Set a Watchman should not have been published as a Mockingbird sequel without some major rewriting.

Behrent's review of Go Set a Watchman is here.

Source: http://socialistworker.org/2015/07/29/who-was-atticus-finch-really