Go Set a Watchman – Not a Sequel, a Glimpse at the Literary Process

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Despite my most diligent efforts to avoid spoilers online, I caught a glimpse of a few Go Set a Watchman leaks. Namely, these two: “Atticus Finch is a racist and Tom Robinson was acquitted.” In my opinion, as far as Mockingbird is concerned, one of these is just as false as the other.

I think there is a good reason for these inconsistencies. To Kill a Mockingbird was written after Watchman, at the suggestion of someone affiliated with publishing. In other words, as Lee wrote Mockingbird, no “fictional truths” were in place to govern the rules of the book.

She was at complete literary freedom.

Regardless of reviews and astonishing headlines, I don’t fault Harper Lee at all. I still think she is an amazing writer and Mockingbird will continue to be one of my favorite tales. Facts, characters and more can change from draft to draft – that is especially true when jumping from manuscript to manuscript.

Let’s try to put this in perspective.

Have you seen the Back to the Future trilogy? In part two, remember when Biff steals the sports almanac, takes the DeLorean back to 1955 and gives it to his younger self? This created a parallel, alternate timeline, as explained by the thick-tufted Doc Brown himself.

Think of Watchman like that. Being written before the classic we have all come to know and love, what was true in that book did not have to be true in Mockingbird. As far as Lee was concerned, she was writing a different novel, governed by a different set of truths, completely unaware that anyone would ever set eyes on Watchman.

This inconsistency created the alternate timeline where Atticus Finch is a racist, Tom Robinson was acquitted, and Biff is corrupt, powerful and married to your mother.

I am still counting down the minutes to midnight, waiting to get my copy and start reading. I will definitely post a review once I finish the book. I just don’t want to jump to any out-of-context conclusions.

I believe I (and many others) can still enjoy Watchman, especially when you consider it for what it is: not a sequel, but a glimpse at the creative process that ultimately gave us the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

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