When I was a freshman in high school, our class was asked to read Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t remember much about the book, except a few lines that I liked enough to write down, but other than that I completely missed the point of the book, as I did with many other things my freshman year (long story).
Anyway, after many years, Harper Lee has finally published a sequel to Mockingbird, titled Go Set a Watchman. And the thought police are already upset about it because Atticus Finch is now supposedly represented as a racist.
I don’t think characters should act to please the sensibilities of readers. Characters need to act in a way that is natural for the character and the story. Now, I can understand if the outrage is because Atticus Finch acted completely different from the character established in Mockingbird. That’s warranted. But in real life, people have many different sides to them, and not all of those sides are agreeable. Why shouldn’t characters be the same way?
Also, Watchman was published 55 years after Mockingbird, so we are reading it from a totally different frame of reference. Had Watchman been published soon after it was written, it might have been better received by its audience. Perhaps Harper Lee did not do the right thing by waiting so long to publish it. No matter what, the book should be judged on its literary merits: Was it written well? Does it have an important message? Does it logically follow the storyline set up in Mockingbird? Do characters act in character?
And if you’re still upset about Atticus Finch, there are three things you can do: Write pointless comments on the Internet, write angry letters to Harper Lee and/or her publisher, or simply don’t read the book (or put the book down if you’re in the midst of it).