Was Atticus Finch Really Not Gregory Peck?

9780446310789_p0_v6_s192x300Like many who grew up analyzing To Kill A mockingbird in English class, and mesmerized by the9780062409850_p0_v9_s118x184 famous movie with Gregory Peck, my impressions of Atticus Finch had him as a tolerant man who was also the icon for fairness and justice in a disparate legal system.  Nelle Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set A Watchman, attracted my interest when it was first discovered, but I had not thought much about it until I read the article this morning in the New York Times – Amid Shock, Readers Also find Reality in Bigoted Atticus Finch.

What?  Atticus Finch a bigot?  Could editing of a first draft from a first-time author really have changed the character so much to produce the revered lawyer in To Kill A Mockingbird?

By now, most readers have heard of Harper Lee’s rewrite, at the suggestion of her editor, transforming her original book to the now famous coming-of-age story with Scout and her father Atticus Finch.  In interviews, the eighty-eight year-old – now living back in her Alabama hometown, after years in New York City – claims she “did as she was told,” and rewrote the story into the classic known today as To Kill A Mockingbird.

I had not intended to read Go Set A Watchman.  Most first novels, especially first drafts, are often not as good as the author’s later work.  The initial controversy over the authorship stirred my interest, but I wondered if the spin was just another publicity ploy, meant to increase sales of the newly discovered book.  Oprah Winfrey recalled from her informal discussion with Lee (Oprah was never able to convince Lee to submit to an on air interview):

“One of the things that struck me: she {Lee} said, ‘If I had a dime for every book that was sold…” And I {Oprah} was thinking, “I hope you have more than a dime, because nobody expected this.’ “

Was this about the money?

Interestingly, Lee, who worked with her friend Truman Capote on research for In Cold Blood, has not written another book (that we know of) since the Pulitzer prize-winning novel was published. A self-described recluse, Lee has worked on another non-fiction book  about an Alabama serial killer, which had the working title “The Reverend” – maybe that book will be next to be “discovered” and published.

Megan Garber in her article – Harper Lee – The Sadness of a Sequel  – for the Atlantic said:

“All we will have, in the end, is a book, a thing that will raise as many questions as it answers. And, for better or for worse, that is probably just how Harper Lee—Nelle to the small collection of people who really know her—would prefer things.”

Guess I’ll read the book after all and decide for myself, but not soon – I am 258 on the library reserve list.

Do you plan to read Go Set A Watchman?  What do you think about it?

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