To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beloved novels in American literature, so its legions of fans were overjoyed to hear that its author, Harper Lee, was going to publish Go Set a Watchman, another novel featuring the same main characters. But now that the new book has been released, many readers are disillusioned. In Mockingbird, Atticus Finch comes across as an ideal father, as well as the idealistic lawyer who strikes a blow against racism in defending a falsely-accused black man in the segregated South. But in Watchman, told from the point of view of his daughter Scout as an adult, we see her conflicts with her father, who is full of flaws, including racial prejudice.
But readers whose admiration for Atticus has been spoiled and who wish they never read the new book need not be dismayed. According to the iron laws of literary scholarship, the author’s final intention is what counts. Watchman gives us an earlier version of the story and of the characters. Mockingbird is the later version, and the good Atticus represents Harper Lee’s final intention. Let me, a literary scholar though recently retired, explain after the jump. [Read more…]