Harper Lee Biography
“Nelle” Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. She grew up in Monroeville, a small town in southwest Alabama. Her father was a lawyer who also served in the state legislature from 1926–1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader. After she attended public school in Monroeville she attended Huntingdon College, a private school for women in Montgomery for a year and then transferred to the University of Alabama. After graduation, Lee studied at Oxford University. She returned to the University of Alabama to study law but withdrew six months before graduation.
Harper Lee’s interest in reading developed during her early years. She started her educational journey from a public school in Monroeville, followed by Huntington College, a private institute for women in Montgomery. There, she developed an interest in literature, and focused on studies, developing her skills as a writer. Later, she attended the University of Alabama and completed graduation in 1944. Further, from 1945 to 1949, she became the part of the Glee club and literary honor society. She also became the publication’s editor of the school’s humor magazine, The Rammer Jammer. Harper Lee continued to pursue her interest in literature. She moved to New York City in 1941. There she met and developed a friendship with a famous composer and lyricist, Michael Martin Brown, and his wife, Joy, who helped her in her literary pursuits. Moreover, her childhood friend, Truman Capote, a rising literary star of that time, also played a significant role in her literary growth.
Harper Lee’s life was filled in a series of challenges. She spent a turbulent childhood due to the psychological ailments of her mother. Her interest in literature led him to choose writing as a profession to fulfill this desire. She faced many obstacles, including financial instability. To continue her struggle and to earn a living, she started a job. Later her friend helped her with a handsome amount suffice for her task. Therefore, she left her job and focused entirely on writing. Her untiring efforts and passion came out in the form of a novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. It hit the shelves in 1960. She published her 2nd novel Go Set a Watchman in 2015.
Despite facing challenges and deteriorating health, she continued to thrive and published her 2nd work in 2015. She breathed her last on 19th February in 2016 at the age of eighty-nine.
Harper Lee became a published writer when her articles were published in the school magazine, Rammer Jammer. Unfortunately, she was dropped out of Oxford University, after which she moved to New York, where she worked hard to earn her living. Also, her reunion with her childhood friend, Truman Capote, helped her literary career. Both helped each other; Lee assisted him in his assignments and fueled her thoughts about writing. It was during that time, she completed her globally acclaimed novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Besides the novel, she also wrote a few essays, including Romance and High Adventure. Later in 2015, she published another novel, Go Set a Watchman.
Harper Lee’s Major Works
- Novels: She wrote only two novels during her life, those are, To Kill a Mocking Bird and Go Set a Watchman.
- Other Works: Besides novels, she tried her hands on literary articles. Some of them include Love—In Other Words, When Children Discover America, Christmas to Me and Romance and High Adventure.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
This novel is narrated by Jean Louise ”Scout” Finch, a girl who lives with her brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus who is a lawyer and a member of the state legislature. Scout and Jem although motherless, enjoy parental love and devotion from their father Atticus and feminine care from their black cook Calpurnia. The title is derived from Atticus’ admonition to his children in Chapter 10 of the novel that, ”it is a sin to kill a mockingbird”. The character Mrs. Maudie Atkinson, also in Chapter 10, then adds perspective to the admonition by telling them that the reason it is a sin to kill a mockingbird is that ”Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…”.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)
Go Set a Watchman is the only other published novel by Harper Lee. The title of the novel is derived from the words of Isaiah 21: 6, a passage in the bible that says: ”For thus hath the Lord said to me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth”. This bible passage was quoted by the character Mr. Stone in Chapter Seven of the novel.
Some Important Facts of Her Life
- Her masterpiece, To Kill a Mocking Bird, won international recognition. It had been translated into ten languages.
- In 2007, President George w. Bush presented her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her praiseworthy contribution to American literature.
- Her novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird, won Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.
- She wrote only two books in her entire career and yet left a great impression in the literary world.
- “In New York, you are your own person. You may reach out and embrace all of Manhattan in sweet aloneness, or you can go to hell if you want to.” (Go Set a Watchman)
- “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” (To Kill a Mocking Bird)
- “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (To Kill a Mockingbird)
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