On Feb. 3, Harper Lee, the beloved author of the American classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” made a shocking statement. To the surprise of her fans and the general public, the 88-year-old author announced the rediscovery and release of her second novel, “Go Set A Watchman.” According to the announcement, Lee penned “Watchman” prior to writing “To Kill A Mockingbird;” the novel features Scout as an adult, recounting the stories of her childhood through flashbacks.
While many are rejoicing over Lee’s unforeseen announcement, multiple concerns have developed. These worries stem from the aging Lee’s recent change in legal representation and the author’s uncharacteristic break of silence.
In Lee’s announcement, she named Tonja Carter, an attorney currently representing the author, as the “dear friend” who had rediscovered “Go Set A Watchman.” Carter, who controls Lee’s estate, recently took over Lee’s affairs when Lee’s sister Alice, who had served as the author’s lawyer—handling her legal affairs while shielding her from undesired media attention— checked into a nursing home in 2011. When the author’s legal matters fell into Carter’s hands, the Lee sisters became involved in a controversy surrounding “The Mockingbird Next Door,” a Harper Lee biography written by the sisters’ neighbor, Marja Mills. The biography was initially approved by the sisters, but then disavowed in a statement written by Harper Lee. According to Mills, Alice Lee wrote her a letter following the incident, stating that her younger sister Harper “will sign anything put in front of her” and that the author “can’t see and can’t hear.” From these statements, various concerns have developed, with many believing that Harper Lee’s declining health has increased her susceptibility to being taken advantage of by her legal representation.
“I think it is odd that Harper Lee is releasing another book because she had made a clear point in earlier years that ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ would be her sole work of art,” said senior Natalie Bevilacqua.
Several suspicions have also developed following Harper Lee’s shocking break of silence. Publicly known as reclusive, Lee stayed out of the limelight for 51 years. In a 1964 interview—her last interview before her 51-year silence—Lee stated that the success of “To Kill A Mockingbird” frightened her, and her fear was “one of sheer numbness.” Additionally, during a lunch with Oprah Winfrey in 2006, she compared herself to the reclusive “To Kill a Mockingbird” character Boo Radley, describing her desires to stay out of the limelight.
“It’s better to be silent than to be a fool,” said Harper Lee in 2007, after she declined to speak at an awards ceremony.
While Lee’s announcement generated excitement and anticipation within the literary world, many fans are encouraging readers to take a more apprehensive approach towards the release. Whether or not Lee is indeed being taken advantage of, the public should recognize the controversy behind “Go Set A Watchman” before indulging in the words of the author who changed America.