It should come as no surprise to the legions of fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, that on Tuesday, July 14, the much talked about, controversial follow-up, Go Set a Watchman, set sales records in its opening day at Barnes & Noble. Discussions prior to its release centered around the notion that this “new” novel is actually an initial draft of what eventually became known to the world as To Kill a Mockingbird. Many fans have doubts as to whether author, Harper Lee, really wanted to have this early edition released – brushing off the idea that Watchman is truly discovered lost treasure and a gift to the literary world, and more likely a cocktail of half-baked stories served up by HarperCollins Publishers in order to cash in on the Harper Lee hysteria.
But while others may struggle with the legitimacy of Go Set a Watchman, I am comfortable with what it is…an interesting character-study and a chance for us to catch a glimpse into Lee’s vision of the woman Scout grew into and the path she followed. While Watchman is not literary gold, it offers us the chance to “see” what the future held for Scout, and I am thrilled that Jean Louise (Scout’s grownup name) didn’t grow up to be a “proper lady.”
If we are to believe the publisher, as Go Set a Watchman turned into To Kill a Mockingbird, it could have been so easy for Lee to have taken a different turn – away from the tomboy that young girls could identify with and say, “she’s just like me,” and away from the free spirit that women everywhere could embrace as a literary mirror into the soul of their childhood, or at least a childhood that we could imagine. Instead, Lee sharpened her pencil and sharpened the story that became our nation’s most loved novel.
During the writing process, thank God no one asked Lee, “Umm…could you throw a dress on Scout? We don’t want readers to think that she’s a boy.” Thankfully, no one instructed Lee to tone her down and “lose the overalls.” And if they did, thankfully, she didn’t listen. When reading Go Set a Watchman, one needs to see it for what it is – an entertaining and promising first draft that was only the beginning of a greater journey, and a delightful sneak peek into what became of Scout. As she grew into Jean Louise, she may have lost the overalls but her free spirit remained delightfully intact.
And thank God, no one asked Harper Lee, “Can you make Scout’s overalls pink?”
By Heidi McCrary, Writer & Advertising Goddess