Will Atticus Finch's Racist Behavior in 'Go Set a Watchman' Tarnish Harper Lee's Legacy?

It's the book event of the decade and the hoopla is at fever pitch.

All across America, people are eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s official release of Harper Lee's new book, Go Set A Watchman.

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At Barnes and Noble bookstores, many turned out for readings from her 1960 classic, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Actress Dawn Wells from Gilligan's Island was at a Barnes and Noble in Los Angeles where she read excerpts from Mockingbird. She told INSIDE EDITION: "I am looking forward to Go Set A Watchman. I love Harper Lee, I haven't read this book in a number of years and I was delighted to do it again." 

The books and audio books are still in boxes and under lock and key until they are released on Tuesday morning. 

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos is one of lucky few to get his hands on Go Set A Watchman.

He said: "I read it over the weekend and I have to say it is absolutely riveting. It is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking to see the portrayal of Atticus Finch." 

Of course To Kill A Mockingbird brought Atticus Finch to life as one of the great heroes of American literature. Gregory Peck's legendary performance earned him an Oscar. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch was a compassionate lawyer who defended a black man that was accused of raping a white girl in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama in 1936. The novel, originally published in 1960, won a Pulitzer Prize for dealing with issues such as racial inequality during the height of segregation in the United States.  

But what has people talking is the depiction of Atticus as a 72-year-old racist who has even attended a Klan meeting and says things like “Do you want negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters."

Go Set A Watchman, which is Lee’s first published novel in 55 years, was written before Mockingbird. The manuscript for the book was thought to have been lost until it was uncovered last year. 

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Reaction is one of disbelief. INSIDE EDITION spoke to movie critic Michael Medved who said: "It shouldn't really change the way we look at the movie or the way that we look at To Kill A Mockingbird. What it could do is change the way we look at Harper Lee as a creative artist." 

In March, The New York Times reported that an investigation was launched in Alabama after someone told authorities that the 88-year-old Lee, who lives an assisted living facility, that she might be the victim of elder abuse and was manipulated into the publication of Watchman.

In a statement issued in March, Andrew Nurnberg, an agent at HarperCollins who is publishing the book, said: I was surprised to hear that someone had, anonymously, approached the authorities in Alabama to suggest that Harper Lee was being subjected to 'elder abuse,'" the statement read. "Having spent quality time with her over the last couple of years, I can categorically state that she is in full possession of her mental faculties.”

The Alabama Securities Commission closed the investigation into the claim of elder abuse. Joseph Borg, who heads the commission, said: "We made a determination that Ms. Lee, based on our interview with her, was aware that her book was going to be published. She wanted it to be published. She made it quite clear she did."

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