The Significance Behind the Title of Go Set A Watchman; Midnight Release on July 14, 2015

Go Set A Watchman Tivoli

We went to the midnight release of Harper Lee’s most recently published book at the Tivoli theater in Downers Grove. The $36.00 ticket included a panel discussion led by teachers from my district’s High School, trivia games, and a showing of the film To Kill A Mockingbird. At midnight, it was legal to pass out the first editions of Harper Lee’s latest published book, Go Set A Watchmen, which was written in the 1950’s and rediscovered last fall.

Leaning over to me, as we waited for the film to start, my friend asked me, “Did you know that the title has a biblical reference?”

“No!” I exclaimed.

But, it’s true. The title comes from this verse in the Old Testament:

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” ~Isaiah 21:6

“How many people in the theater know this?” I whispered. And we decided it must be shared. With a fair amount of trembling, I walked down the aisle from the back where we sat to the microphone in the front as the panel was still entertaining questions from the audience, and I gave my name. Then I read the scripture, to enhance the literary perspective of the readers there who ought to know that Harper Lee chose the beauty of the King James Version to make a point…that someone ought to declare what he sees.

I don’t know if it was well received. There was a rather full pause as I made my way back to my seat, and my friend whispered to me that my voice didn’t waver very much. But, it doesn’t matter to me. I love this fact. I love that Lee’s title bears a connection to my favorite book ever.

And now, to add to the stack of books on my mission style desk, is this beautiful first edition.

Go Set A Watchman novel

22 thoughts on “The Significance Behind the Title of Go Set A Watchman; Midnight Release on July 14, 2015

    • Well, it is never easy for me to stand in front of huge groups of people (only classrooms), and it is getting increasingly difficult to be vocal about scripture in today’s liberal society. I didn’t take it into a whole discussion about Christianity, for that was not my point. Last night, I only wanted to share the significance of the title, and from whence it came, as I didn’t even know before my friend told me.


  1. …my friend whispered to me that my voice didn’t waver very much, I’m sure mine would have! How fun to attend the midnight release! We open two hours early today and I’m going in early to help set the large display of beautiful books. We haven’t had this much excitement about the release of a book since Harry Potter! I’ll be anxious to hear what you think of the novel.

    Sorry to be absent so much. Summer is busy and we’re getting ready for a vacation to Oregon for two weeks (with the granddaughter!). I love this time of year, in spite of the dreadful heat. Doesn’t stop me from getting outside, though. We biked both Saturday and Sunday. 🙂


    • I’ve been enjoying the pictures of you and your cycling buddy (a very handsome guy!) from Facebook. You are so good at enjoying the heat, and staying active; this summer I’ve been too inclined to lay on the couch nursing my aching tooth.

      Thinking of you today at Barnes and Noble with the release of Go Set A Watchman; what fun it would be to celebrate with all the shoppers and employees! I saw all the hints offered by Barnes and Nobel as a way of celebration, and they were each one enticing.


  2. Oh wonderful that they had a midnight showing of the movie and you got the book! I love the Biblical reference. I’m waiting anxiously for mine to come in the mail today from Barnes and Noble. I might ride over to the book store for their festivities this morning. They are opening 3 hours early with giveaways and prizes.


    • I remember when I ordered the last Harry Potter from, and it didn’t arrive until about two days after the release date. i was so mad! I thought I could have received it faster if I’d just walked downtown to Barnes and Noble. So, I don’t pre-order anymore, unless it’s for my nook/kindle with an instant download. I hope you get your hands on your copy soon! It sounds like Barnes and Noble has wonderful celebrations throughout the day!


  3. I think I might have known that – the Biblical reference. But, I had forgotten. How did I know it? Maybe actually read it once. Anyway, good for you to point out the initial use of the phrase. And, well, you are right that often sharing Biblical knowledge is not necessarily well received. A shame. Thanks for sharing it with us though. Now, I’m curious about the context in both Isaiah and Lee’s book.


    • I think the context simply has to do with speaking of what you see, instead of hiding it away. So many times it’s easier to ignore something that’s politically charged, rather than stand up for what you believe. Or, at least bring light to what’s going on. I’ll be able to “guess” the meaning/context better after I’ve read the book, though.


  4. What a fantastic opportunity to be able to attend such an event, and a panel discussion to go with it. I must say you are very brave to go up and speak in front of the whole crowd. I could never have done it. Well done. I am sure it was appreciated. I love when a title means something more than a title. I am not that familiar with the Bible, that is quotes and such, but of course I know many of the wonderful stories of this book. I presume you will review the book when you have read it. Looking forward to hear what you think.


    • It’s funny, when I was younger I was unafraid of so many things. And now, speaking in front of a large crowd has become something to be brave about. There is much to be found about Go Set A Watchman these days online, as it was just released yesterday, but I hope to read and review it by fall. Thanks for your sweet words, Lisbeth.


  5. What a fun event. And I did know from whence the title came, but only because it sounded so familiar that I looked it up and found the Isaiah reference. And good for you, for sharing it with the group. There’s nothing wrong with knowledge, now is there?


    • I am not one bit surprised that you knew, or looked up, the origin of this title. It never occurred to me to do that until my friend mentioned it to me. There’s nothing wrong with knowledge of any kind, and even if people aren’t Christian I thought that the literary world show know of whence her title came. Heck, I’m glad I know!


  6. Thank you for sharing this “tidbit”, which is a significant one. The idea of this “new” book is fascinating in many ways to me. The event you attended sounds wonderful.


    • It’s weird to be prequel (written before To Kill a Mockingbird) and a sequel (about Scout’s life when she was an adult) at the same time. It was absolutely wonderful to see the film with Gregory Peck though, which closely followed the novel. I am eager to see how Harper Lee writes her ‘new’ story of the South.


  7. Wow! Sounds like such a fun bookish event. I think it was great that you shared about the biblical reference in the title – I would think it would make for a great discussion, but I guess not everyone would agree in this day and age. Either way, I think its great you shared and found something new to love about the book. Enjoy your new read!!


    • Wouldn’t it be fun if all of us could have gone to such an event together? I would have loved that, and I’m not even a terribly social person. Thanks for being one of my reading friends.


  8. I’m reading it now and yes I knew about the title. Still waiting for the meaning to unfold as I read. I’ve been away in Toronto for my son’s wedding. It was a marvelous hiatus but glad to be back to the routine of reading, writing and blogging. Also catching up on the Paris in July event. Just posted my review on Suite Francaise the movie. 🙂


  9. Thanks for sharing that. I didn’t know that the title was referenced from the Bible. I thought it was such an odd name for a book. That verse from the Bible gives it meaning.

    And the midnight showing sounds so much fun. At first glance, the first photo you shared in your post seemed like a grand movie release. I had to look closer to realize it was a book opening


  10. Bellezza, I’m afraid other than the title, there’s not much Biblical reference in the book. And one crucial thing you might want to know, Go Set A Watchman is the first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird, and not a ‘new novel’ as the publisher had touted. My post just up. Sorry to disappoint.


  11. Pingback: Go set a Watchman – Nishita's Rants and Raves

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