Nobody expected that Harper Lee, 88, the author of the famous literary classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, had ever written a sequel to the novel, or would ever write one, so the news that she had written and was now going to publish a sequel to it came as a complete surprise to almost everyone. For decades, Harper Lee had been on record as stating that To Kill a Mockingbird stood on its own, and she did not have any intentions of writing a sequel.
However, 55 years after the original publication of of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird on July 11, 1960, Harper Lee will be publishing the sequel to it, Go Set a Watchman, this coming summer. It will be in stores on July 11, 1960, with an initial run of 2 million copies. Lee’s friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered the manuscript of it inside of a locked safety deposit box “affixed to an original typescript,” according to Lee’s publisher at Harper, Jonathan Burnham.
Burnham stated that Go Set a Watchman was “about a father and daughter’s relationship,” and the novel also focused on “the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”
Though Go Set a Watchman was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s upcoming book is essentially a sequel to it. Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman in the 1950s, and her editor at the time suggested that she tell the story she had written from the child, Scout’s point of view. Lee heeded the advice, and reworked her original novel, transforming it into To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman, by contrast, is the original book, and it is told from the point of view of Scout, whose real name is Jean Louise Finch, as an adult woman.
To Kill a Mockingbird soon became a best-seller and is still one of the most read and beloved novels ever written. It was made into a movie in 1962, and featured Gregory Peck in an Oscar-winning performance in the role of Scout’s father, the lawyer, Atticus Finch. Finch ends up defending a mblack friend of Scout’s, known as Boo, in a rape trial that ends up leaving emotional scars on everyone involved.
The plot of Go Set a Watchman, which Harper Lee called “a pretty decent effort,” involves the adult Scout returning home to Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father, Atticus, who is still alive. Go Set a Watchman is set in the middle of the Civil Rights era, 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman will be 304 pages long.
Harper Lee had planned to write more novels, and become a sort of Jane Austen; but, she ended up never writing another one. She would occasionally make public appearances, and she even wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey in 2006, in which Lee mentioned her preference of good, old-fashioned books over reading e-books. She wrote “some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.”
Will Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee become as beloved and as famous as To Kill a Mockingbird and possibly even win her a second Pulitzer Prize? Will it go on to sell 40 million copies worldwide, like To Kill a Mockingbird? It is much too early to tell, but there is little doubt that, whatever the literary merits of Go Set a Watchman might be, this surprise sequel will become an instant best-seller and will prompt comparisons with To Kill a Mockingbird, and will attract a new generation to the writing of Harper Lee.
Written By Douglas Cobb