Remembering Harper Lee

Author of To Kill A Mockingbird Passes Away at 89

Y'all Should Know This... | Caroline Cianci | February 19, 2016

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After 89 years, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Nelle Harper Lee, has passed away early Friday morning, confirmed by multiple sources in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.
Born in 1926, Harper Lee grew up with three other siblings, a mother who was a homemaker, and a father who practiced law and served in the Alabama State Legislature. At one point, her father defended two black men who were accused of killing a white storekeeper, which was the inspiration for her award-winning novel. Lee first started writing her novel in 1957, where it was originally titled Go Set a Watchman. After numerous drafts and rewrites, it was finally published in the summer of 1960 as To Kill a Mockingbird, and shortly won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction a year later. Harper Lee even published her most recent and final novel in July of 2015, Go Set a Watchman, which was a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the story of Scout and Jem Finch who live with their lawyer father, Atticus in Alabama. The story follows Atticus who is defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. The novel, that many deemed controversial at the time it was published, focuses on the troubles of social inequality and racism in America. The iconic novel deals with the racism that plagues communities and values the idea of moral education through Atticus teaching his children ethics and lessons throughout the story. One example of this is when Scout wonders why Atticus decided to defend the black man in trial, despite most of the community being against him. Atticus takes this as an opportunity to help Scout grow as a person, and states, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Atticus was telling Scout despite what society believes, you should always follow your conscience to hold true to your integrity.

Harper Lee was inspiring and courageous. Her words and stories are timeless and are still applicable today. She was also incredibly ahead of the times.  She was writing and trying to battle systemic racism in the 1960’s while it was still extremely alive and prevalent, and taboo to talk about. Harper Lee had a wonderful way with words that will be studied inside and outside of classrooms for years on end. Her novel allows for readers to not only watch Scout and Jem grow but for the reader to also grow intellectually and morally. As Harper Lee once said, “The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think.”

Harper Lee (1926-2016)