Miss. Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Moroeville Alabama, where her father practiced as a lawyer and served as a state senator. She grew up as the youngest out of 4 children, and was the only one to pursue a literary career. She received her early education in public schools, and from 1945-1949 she attended University of Alabama, studying law. She moved to New York, without carrying out the requirements for her degree in law, and there worked as an airline reservation clerk. Shortly after, she left her clerk position to concentrate her efforts on her first novel.
To Kill a Mockingbird went through various stages of revision, over a two and a half year period, before hitting the shelves in 1960. The book was an instant success, selling more than two and a half million copies in its first year. It was published in various countries overseas and was chosen by three well-known American book clubs. On May 1, 1961 Miss. Lee’s hard work and determination paid off tremendously.
She was honoured to find out that she was the first woman since 1942 to have a fiction book awarded the Pulitzer Prize. (Very prestigious awards established by Joseph Pulitzer and conferred annually for accomplishment in various fields of American journalism, literature, and music.)
Harper Lee is credited greatly for her ability to captivate the reader by presenting opinions, views of life and its common roadblocks, through eyes of a child. Scout, an intelligent and observant child, narrates the story from start to finish, maturing along with the other characters in the book. Like Harper Lee, Scout is the youngest of her family, and is forced to work her way through the trials of adolescence. Scout seems almost a mirror image of Miss. Lee herself.
Much like the way Scout resembles Lee, it seems other characters in the book have been drawn from Lee’s relations and acquaintances. For instance, she has integrated the fine qualities of her own father, Amasa Coleman Lee, into Atticus Finch, the father of Scout and Jem. Both were intelligent and fair men, who raised children accordingly, and both started with petty jobs and later went on to study and practice law in small communities, to support their families. It was said that Mr. Lee even autographed childrens’ books as “Atticus Finch” instead of Amasa Lee. Truman Capote, a childhood friend of Harper Lee’s, was said to have been inspiration for the young character, Dill. This is often the case with many authors. Influential events and people, create new experiences for the imagination to expand upon, leaving loads of opportunity for minor plots in a story.
Many family names, another common happening in writings, were also incorporated into the novel. Finch is the maiden name of Miss. Lee’s mother, and Cunningham was derived from her father’s side. Louise, (Jean Louise Finch) was a sister to Lee, and was thrilled to have her name appear in the novel.
Harper Lee has an incredible way of bringing a book to life through her defined characters. She presents a debatable subject in a casual environment, inhabiting individuals of contrasting views. Each character plays a significant role, and contributes to the repeated enforcing of her themes. She uses life experiences, world problems, and unique phrasing to produce an astounding work of literature that will be recognized forever as brilliant.