I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school and while it didn’t have a profound impact on my sense of self, occasionally I’ll pull it from the shelf to read random passages. It’s beautiful, it’s eloquent, and it describes the South in a way that’s often understated—a close knit communal haven away from the cacophony of city-life. The many beatific descriptions are so sublime and calming that one can’t help but become attached to the story, the characters, and the setting.
I have anticipated a second novel by Harper Lee and was quite ecstatic when I heard it was on the way. That is, until I heard the name Go Set a Watchman.
Go Set a Watchman sounds like something an old crusty pirate would cry from a crow’s nest while his parrot caws and shits.
Compared to To Kill a Mockingbird it’s just a damn ugly title. Moreover, it doesn’t do its predecessor any form of poetic justice. To Kill a Mockingbird rolls off of one’s tongue, it’s instantly memorable, and it hints at a deeply disturbing image of a serene town hit by the evil of injustice.
Yet, Go Set a Watchman speaks of the fall of Babylon and that may be what Harper Lee intended when selecting the title; however, because it rings dissonant I feel it has no resonance.
I lamented my concern on the official revealing of the novel’s cover on Facebook, but was met with confusion and trite reproach.
“I think the title means something deeper,” said one respondent.
I smacked my forehead. Of course it does, otherwise she should have titled it Ham and Why I Love Ham because the book has nothing to do with ham. Or maybe it does … I haven’t read it yet.
Likewise, another reply said simply: Isaiah 21:6. I gleefully researched this passage, but even Isiah seemed coarse and ugly—guttural even. As for Bible passages, I don’t believe Go Set a Watchman was the best choice. I think Throw Me into the Sea from Jonah would’ve been a cool passage … okay it’s not much better but you know what I mean.
I suppose I can’t judge a book by its title and I’m sure it’ll be a fine read. Nevertheless, Harper Lee’s erroneous decision to title her only other novel something as bumbling as Go Set a Watchman makes me fear for the content of the book. Then again, maybe Scout will go see Atticus and a pirate will arrive with his noisy, flatulent bird. “Yarrr, Scout, you be gone for years, and this town has been shiverin’ me timbers. Don’t listen to me, though, lass, now it’s time to go set a watchmen … or something like that.”
That would still be better than the title.