How will Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” affect the Way You Teach or Read “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

Harper Lee (b. 1926). To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1960. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird [cover]. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1960. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

Today marks the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the manuscript that Lee, with the help of editor Tay Hohoff, shaped over the course of several years into the classic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

This publication event, although tinged with controversy, provides us with an opportunity to remind social studies and English teachers about the Library’s lesson plan, “To Kill a Mockingbird: A Historical Perspective.” The lesson plan is designed to help teachers provide historical and social context for the novel through the study of primary source materials available on our website. This lesson plan is one of many available on the Library’s Teachers Page.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, Harper, 2015. Image from HarperCollins website.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman  [cover]. Harper, 2015. Image from HarperCollins website.

The publication of Go Set a Watchman offers a unique and unexpected opportunity for teachers to reconsider the way they approach To Kill a Mockingbirdwhich has been listed by the Library as one of the “Books That Shaped America”in the classroom, and we’re interested to hear from teachers about if, or how, you plan to change the way they study the novel with students. Certainly, any discussion that involves looking at both novels will be complicated by the revelations regarding Atticus Finch’s character in Go Set a Watchman. However, as former Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey notes in a Washington Post review of Go Set a Watchman, examining the extent to which Watchman echoes Mockingbird provides readers the ability to explore “the evolution of a writer and her story through the process of revision.”

Finally, here’s a question for all of you who have finished reading Go Set a Watchman: How, if at all, has reading it affected your opinion of the characters, themes, and events in To Kill a Mockingbird?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section below.

5 Comments

  1. Donal Mahoney
    July 14, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    I feel Harper Lee wrote Mockingbird to please her editors and get it published. In Watchman, which she wrote first, perhaps she told the truth.

  2. Luann Herrmann
    July 27, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    After reading Go Set a Watchman, my lesson plans for To Kill a Mockingbird will not alter. I realize this book from Nelle Harper Lee is her first novel, that she had a wise editor to steer her in the right direction, and she also supportive friends that allowed her to devote herself entirely to the writing of her second novel or rewrite. After reading several books about Ms. Lee, I believe Watchman represents more of her adult experiences and perspectives. This book did not taint my view of the Atticus of TKaM. I am able to separate the characters into two separate books.

  3. jean harrington
    August 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Did anyone see the C-SPAN BookTV August 22, 2015 Mississippi Book Festival?

    C-SPAN did a terrific job, as usual.The whole festival is good, especially the one about Eudora Welty.

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327594-2/mississippi-book-festival-panel-discussion-harper-lee

  4. DJ Cashmere
    September 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    My name is DJ, and I’m a John K. Martin Fellow at NYU’s Carter Graduate School of Journalism.

    I’m currently working on an ongoing project about Atticus Finch and the way that he is taught in a post-Go Set a Watchman world. I was wondering whether it would be possible to talk to you, Peter, about this blog post, the response it got, and your own feelings on the topic.

    Thanks for your time and consideration,
    DJ

  5. Michael Alonzo
    September 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    The book is amazing and i absolutely loved it

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