Famed ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee Dies At Age 89
Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) and its sequel, Go Set A Watchman (2015), has passed away at age 89. Lee was a contemporary of authors like Truman Capote and Jack Dunphy, and was born in Monroeville, Alabama, in 1926. Her novels were a powerful commentary on the injustice of prejudice after the end of slavery, and involved classic characters such as lawyer Atticus Finch and a mysterious man named Boo Radley. Though her novels were well-written, even Lee herself did not expect them to be successful, as the Medina Gazette noted.
“I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement.”
Lee got more than encouragement from the public at large, and today To Kill A Mockingbird is widely considered one of the classic novels of our time. Even though the issue of prejudice is slightly less prominent nowadays, the characters Harper Lee created seem as real as ever, and are still easily relatable today.
Her book, To Kill A Mockingbird, described life in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression, where a lawyer named Atticus Finch must defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus decides to take the case even though he is white and his client is black, which leads to scandal for him and his family. Lee’s newest novel, Go Set A Watchman, picks up twenty years after the original story of Mockingbird, and details the journey of Atticus’ daughter, Scout, to go visit him in New York City.Unfortunately, Harper Lee is not the only author whom the world lost in 2016. Pat Conroy, who wrote The Prince of Tides, passed away at 70-years-old earlier this month, and Umberto Eco (The Name Of The Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum) died in February at age 84. Lee was born Nelle Lee Harper in Monroeville, Alabama, on April 26, 1928, according to Biography.com.
She was a good friend of author Truman Capote, and helped him write an article that later turned into perhaps his most recognizable work, In Cold Blood, which is the true story of a family in Kansas who were all slain on the same night. Like her characters, Lee also grew up in the Depression-era south, and thus had a good idea of the setting her characters were in. She was educated at Monroe County High School in 1944, and won the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill A Mockingbird in 1961, one year after it was published. In 1995, Lee worked with Christopher Sergel to adapt To Kill A Mockingbird into a play for the stage.At about the same time Lee was working on To Kill A Mockingbird, the Harlem Renaissance was also gaining momentum. Authors and poets such as Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston were using their creative works to show that people and artists of color deserved the same opportunities as those who were white. To Kill A Mockingbird thus came at the perfect time, being that it analyzed the inequal way white people and those of color were being treated by the justice system. Harper Lee was an excellent writer, and both she and her work will be deeply missed.
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