Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee will be published in just a couple of hours. While it's not exactly a new book, it is new writing for fans who have been clamoring for something--anything--from their beloved author. And I am one of those fans.
To Kill a Mockingbird is still (and will probably always be) my all-time favorite novel. So to get another look at my favorite characters from a different perspective (an older Scout), I was ecstatic. Then I read the first chapter and realized why she spent two years rewriting and revising the work.
It is important to understand that while the publishing of Go Set a Watchman (GSaW) is “new,” this novel is not new. It is Harper Lee’s first draft of her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (TKaM), submitted to her publisher in 1957 and asked by her editor to rewrite the story, using a child’s perspective. It took Lee two years to revise and rewrite it. In 1960, TKaM was published as the final version. Therefore, GSaW is not going to be as polished; it was her initial offering, and one that needed much revision. Readers should expect some of the characters will be different, and perhaps not as likable.
The beauty, though, of having her first draft to analyze, is that readers will be able to see where the characters and events originated. Readers will see how her writing improves with revision. And, hopefully, readers will be enlightened by the publishing process: how hard work, perseverance, and meticulous revisions are requirements in creating a classic novel. In today’s world of instant gratification, it’s important to look at the process and stages of a work that took years to develop and write.
Which is why I created a resource for my students to compare the two works. I am going to have them read closely the first chapter of GSaW and re-read the first chapter of TKaM and analyze how the author improved the story in various areas.
If you are looking for teaching resources for using GSaW in the classroom, you can find my materials in my teacherspayteachers store. All of the activities are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for reading, language, and writing.
I'd also love to hear what you think of Go Set a Watchman. Comment below with your thoughts/feeling. Thanks for visiting!