Those who have read T.M. Doran‘s novel Terrapin know that he is inspired by the work of Harper Lee. Doran is troubled by the newly released novel by Harper Lee. As he wrote previously in Catholic World Report, “Isn’t this decision to publish a sequel to Mockingbird—though Watchman is said to have been written before Mockingbird—inconsistent with what Harper Lee has said for decades? Why has all of this happened after her beloved sister and advocate died? To what extent can the ostensible author of Go Set A Watchman be involved in the editorial process for this book?”
Now that Go Set a Watchman has been released, featuring a dramatically different depiction of Atticus Finch than in To Kill a Mockingbird, T.M. Doran has written a new opinion piece for the Detroit Free Press. In it, he asks again: why now? And what narrative is the character of Atticus Finch being forced into?
Atticus Finch, a racist and a bigot? In a private correspondence in 1995, Harper Lee wrote: “The years have been kind to Mockingbird and I think I know why: it’s because men like you keep the spirit and ideals of Atticus Finch alive and well.” And in a private correspondence in 1997, responding to a question about Atticus Finch and leadership: “My thoughts on leadership are few, but the one thing I think is mandatory for Leadership Lived is example. I think how one conducts oneself is worth more than any amount of words.”
If “Watchman” was so close to being publication-ready in the 1950s, then why did Harper Lee produce a radically different story, and, if it wasn’t, who did the writing and editing when the Watchman manuscript was recently “discovered”? Doesn’t this new Atticus Finch conveniently fit the modern narrative, where virtue is merely a literary device to be propped up and then torn down?
Image: Novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Harper Lee in 1962, two years after the publication of her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Photos: Wikipedia)