Okay, first of all, I totally get that Go Set A Watchman isn’t really a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. It actually happens to be the first draft of TKAM, which an editor read and told Harper Lee to polish up and change (in some pretty big ways). That being said, it’s pretty hard not to view GSAW as a sequel, despite it’s prequel-like origins (and the fact that it’s a first draft), which is where all the trouble begins, and which is the root of my decision not to read it. Ever. Even if its publication is the literary event of the century.
July 13th, 2015, was a pretty low day for me – my ranting notebook saw a lot of use. That was the day that the New York Times published their pre-release review of GSAW, which I eagerly read, and then regretted reading for the rest of the day (now, looking back, I’m glad I did, because it saved me from buying the book in the first place). I moped around, cried quite a bit, and was generally depressed. Even a good night’s sleep didn’t totally shake the feeling because, I mean, this was ATTICUS FINCH they were talking about! My hero. I’d tried to emulate him, wanted to marry someone like him, even planned on naming one of my children after him…but now? That review shattered that, and although the pieces have come back together (especially now that I’ve decided not to read GSAW), there’s still a lingering bit of sadness or disappointment or something along those lines. Everything anyone has ever written about Atticus (or TKAM, for that matter) has been called into question now.
What I think hurt the deepest was that Atticus, who’s always been a symbol of goodness and integrity and courage in the literary world, has suddenly become someone to dislike, perhaps even despise. Being a pastor’s daughter, I’ve seen first-hand how people can change, sometimes in the blink of an eye, and it’s usually not for the better. Betrayal, dark secrets coming out into the open, and so many other things have sometimes caused me to almost despair of there being any decency left in anyone outside my immediate family. Every few months, it hits me all over again, and I get depressed about someone or other’s sudden flight, and it’s hard. It’s really hard. The last time that happened, I wrote something down in one of my notebooks about how “at least fictional characters don’t change”.
And now this. The irony is sickening.
So, that’s why I’m not going to read Go Set A Watchman. I don’t think I could handle it; it would really hurt, and for what? From all accounts, the book isn’t even very well written, and it’s turned out to be a major disappointment for many. Maybe I’m being a coward, but I want my perspective of Atticus, To Kill A Mockingbird, and fictional characters in general to remain constant. Right now, I don’t need any more upheavals in my life. I need to remember Atticus as “the bravest man who ever lived”, not a racist bigot.
However, if you’ve read GSAW, I’d like to hear your thoughts – just because I’m not going to read it doesn’t mean I don’t want anyone else to.