Harper Lee’s new book portrays Atticus Finch as racist; fans on Twitter aghast

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American novelist Harper Lee. Image via Wikimedia Commons/MGN Online.

By Dana Ford


(CNN) — The book is not even out, and readers are already rebelling.

Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” hits stores Tuesday, 55 years after “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The book is hotly anticipated but not without controversy.

It purportedly recasts Atticus Finch, the moral center of Harper’s first book, as racist.

Hearts broke across Twitter.

Lee completed “Go Set a Watchman” in the 1950s. The manuscript was rediscovered last year.

It picks up the story of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, the young girl who narrates her adventures in a small Alabama town in “Mockingbird.”

“Mockingbird” was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize and sold more than 40 million copies. But now, some fans are saying they might not even read Lee’s new book because of the racist revelation. They say ignorance can be bliss.

“Readers will do as they wish,” filmmaker Mary Murphy, who recently spent time with the reclusive Lee, told CNN.

She offered a potentially more nuanced view of “Watchman.”

“Let’s remember that Alabama was a state that would have rather closed its public schools than integrate them. This is the climate in which this book appears,” Murphy said.

“And a truly liberated white Southern man wasn’t something you’d find in these small towns, or across the state. So, Atticus, in the book, reflects — sort of — the time, and reflects the culture of the time.”

Some fans agree. Heroes are complicated, they say, and life is not about easy — or necessarily agreeable — answers.

CNN’s Brian Stelter, Henry Hanks, Todd Leopold and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.


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