To Kill a Mockingbird author announces sequel to her American classic

Aaron Gindi, Contributing Writer

To Kill a Mockingbird is undoubtedly a highlight of the American literary canon. Headlining the Library of Congress’ list of “The Books That Shaped America,” To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1954. It holds the distinction of being Harper Lee’s only published work; however, fifty-five years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, she has announced the publication of a sequel titled Go Set a Watchman.  This has unleashed a mixed tempest of criticism and excitement across the nation.

Upon initially hearing such a thing, one might be baffled by how such a story can be surrounded in controversy. A reason for criticism is skepticism as to whether or not Lee actually wanted to publish this sequel. Lee has been isolated from the world and protected from the media by her sister, a woman who purportedly dislikes getting media attention. However, her sister passed away two months before the announcement and recently rumors have surfaced that Lee’s health is declining as well. Many find the correlation uncanny and believe Lee was pressured into publication.

HarperCollins, the publisher of To Kill a Mockingbird, claimed that they found the manuscript attached to an original manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird before they attained the rights, and many have found this story very fishy. HarperCollins is set to earn huge profits with the book, so it is not too hard to believe that foul play is involved.  Even so, Lee is claiming her decision to publish, and denouncing critics and skeptics of the new novel.

Others are thrilled.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of America’s most beloved books, and the resurfacing of a long-lost sequel makes fans bubble with joy. The novel takes place twenty years after the original, during the racial turmoil of the 1950s.  Scout Finch, the protagonist of both books, is coming home to her isolated southern town to visit her father, Atticus.

Lee says that Go Set a Watchman will continue in the same themes of To Kill a Mockingbird, namely social inequality and small town southern culture.  Lee says that although the plot of Go Set a Watchman takes place chronologically afterwards, it was the father of To Kill a Mockingbird, written before and initially rejected by the editor.

All of this gives Go Set a Watchman the potential for a place amongst the greatest American novels of all time. It will combine the legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird, the enticing obscurity of its author, and the scandal surrounding it to form a publishing saga to be closely followed over the next few months.