Go Set A Watchman

Here’s a Look at the Religion in Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Go Set A Watchman

Photo (modified) by Robert is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The book, a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, is filled with religious influences from the Bible.

The American novelist Harper Lee who promised not to write another book aside from her award-winning To Kill A Mockingbird is now back with another novel Go Set A Watchman. But technically, the new book which was released this month was written decades back and even earlier than To Kill A Mockingbird.

According to her lawyer Tonja Carter, she discovered the manuscript of the novel in a pile of documents in Lee’s safety deposit box in 2014. The manuscript was originally written during the mid-1950s and according to Harper Lee, it was written and submitted to the publisher earlier than the manuscript for To Kill A Mockingbird. It was considered lost at that time, thus, was never published aside from the Mockingbird novel.

Even if the Go Set A Watchman was written earlier than the other novel, the story is actually a sequel of To Kill A Mockingbird. Readers who loved the first novel will be happy to see much of the original characters in the newly released book.

The story is set 20 years after the first book’s time period. The main character Jean Louise Finch or Scout returns home to Maycomb, Alabama from New York to visit her aging father Atticus. But instead of having a wonderful reunion, Scout is confronted with several issues upon returning home from personal up to societal and political issues in the small town where she grew up.

It is said that the phrase “go set a watchman” is originally intended to be the title of the first published book. But due to instructions of the publisher, Lee made changes to the story of the first novel and changed the title to To Kill A Mockingbird. But in the recently discovered and published novel, the manuscript was preserved and the original title proposed by Harper Lee Go Set A Watchman is also preserved.

Harper Lee’s new book is filled with religious symbolism

Literary critics will certainly notice the abundance of religious symbolisms and associations on both of Lee’s books. According to Lee’s friend and historian Wayne Flynt, this is not surprising since the author was born in a bible-reading family.

The title itself has an origin derived from the Bible. According to Flynt, it was based on a verse (Isaiah 21:6) from the Book of Isaiah in the King James Bible: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.”

In the above verse Isaiah is said to be prophesying the fall of Babylon. That somebody needs to set a watchman who would help prevent Babylon’s tragic future. And in Lee’s real life case, she associates Babylon with her hometown Monroeville during the turbulent 1950s. And for Lee, her father has the rightful character of the watchman since she thinks that her father was a man of the bible down to his core.

The Huffington Post as an even more detailed rundown here.


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