A Little Reminder That Harper Lee Was An Incredible Writer
If you ever doubted that Harper Lee could write, if you ever bit on the rumor that, perhaps, Truman Capote had secretly written To Kill A Mockingbird (explaining why Lee never wrote again), then Go Set A Watchman should erase those doubts.
As we’ve talked about before, Lee wrote Watchman years before Mockingbird. It was Lee’s editor who helped turn the Watchman novel into the classic that eventually became To Kill A Mockingbird. So, when you read Go Set A Watchman, you’re actually reading Mockingbird‘s first draft. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Lee’s editor, Tay Hohoff, saw something in Lee. She realized the type of writing Harper Lee was capable of, and she helped draw that out of her.
If you’re familiar with Watchman‘s story, then you know it’s rather controversial. Atticus Finch has become a racist old man. Scout, who has recently returned to Maycomb from New York City, is shocked to find Atticus and her boyfriend, Hank Clinton, at an organized “we hate black people” meeting at the courthouse.
Jean Louise (Scout) is stunned.
It happened so quickly that her stomach was still heaving. She breathed deeply to quieten it, but it would not stay still. She felt herself turning green with nausea, and she put her head down; try as she might she could not think, she only knew, and what she knew was this:
The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.
To me, that’s such a beautifully written, powerful passage.
I’m still not sure whether or not I believe this novel should have been published. But I’ll simply say that when I read passages like that, I’m reminded again of whose work I’m reading.
Harper Lee was, without a doubt, one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century.
More to come on Go Set A Watchman on Thursday.