Go Set a Watchman


Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Harper Lee

Nelle Harper Lee was the youngest of four children born to Amasa Coleman Lee, a respected small-town lawyer, and Frances Cunningham (Finch). Lee studied law at the University of Alabama and then moved to New York where she decided to pursue writing. She wrote an early draft of a novel called Go Set a Watchman in 1957, which she then reworked and turned into her first published novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960. To Kill a Mockingbird became an instant classic, winning the Pulitzer Prize and many other awards. Lee retreated from her fame and moved back to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. She never published another book (although the original manuscript of Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015), but she helped her friend Truman Capote in his research for In Cold Blood. Lee still lives in an assisted-living facility in Monroeville.
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Historical Context of Go Set a Watchman

The novel takes place during the American Civil Rights Movement. This movement took place between 1954 and 1968 and aimed to end disenfranchisement and discrimination against African-Americans. The 1954 Supreme Court decision “Brown v. Board of Education,” which declared segregation between blacks and whites to be unconstitutional, was a major victory for the movement. The ruling plays an important role in Go Set a Watchman, as it meant that the South had to abandon the “Jim Crow laws,” which enforced racial segregation. Many Southern whites resisted, most notably George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, who in 1963 personally blocked the door to the University of Alabama to keep two black students from entering.

Other Books Related to Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman is inextricably linked to Harper Lee’s other, more famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman was written first (in 1957) and then revised and rewritten to become To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published in 1960. The books contain many of the same characters and take place in the same town, but Go Set a Watchman takes place twenty years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Key Facts about Go Set a Watchman
  • Full Title: Go Set a Watchman
  • When Written: 1957
  • When Published: 2015
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Literature, Political Fiction
  • Genre: Fiction; Social Novel
  • Setting: The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1950s
  • Climax: Jean Louise’s angry confrontation with Atticus
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient, mostly following Jean Louise

Extra Credit for Go Set a Watchman

Descendant of General Lee. Harper Lee is actually a descendant of the famed Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Highly Anticipated Release. The release of Go Set a Watchman in 2015, even decades after it was written, was so anticipated by the public that it was Amazon’s most pre-ordered book since the final book of the Harry Potter series.