Harper Lee (April 28, 1928 – February 19, 2016) is a Pulitzer prize winning American novelist, known for her major work To Kill a Mockingbird, which was first published in 1960. Lee is a native of Monroeville, Alabama, and much of her fiction is considered autobiographical in nature. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 by President George W. Bush.
Lee's father was a local lawyer in Monroeville, Alabama, who for some time served on the state legislature. Lee studied Law at the University of Alabama in the late 1940s, but did not graduate. She was employed as a reservation clerk until 1959, when her first novel was published.
While in Monroeville, her childhood friend was Truman Capote, who also became a notable author.
To Kill A Mockingbird
The novel is partly autobiographical. It deals with racial prejudice and class in the American south in the early 1930s. The book is set around a framework of historical events, with references to President Roosevelt and Hitler. The main character is one Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout, who ages from five to eight over the course of the novel. As a young child, she, her brother Jem, and their summertime friend Dill develop a fascination with the legend of Boo Radley, a man whom they believed murdered his parents (who are now in the chimney) and lives in a nearby house. They learn what they can from neighbors, particularly Miss Maudie Atkinson and the town gossip Miss Stephanie Crawford.
Their father is one Atticus Finch, the courteous and logical small town lawyer, expert in settling quarrels between Scout and Jem by listening to both sides. He is polite enough to deal with one mean and whiny neighbor, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, who is suffering a morphine addiction. At one point, Jem is forced to read Ivanhoe to her in parts, as she breaks her addiction. She dies shortly afterwards.
Scout and Jem deal with teachers, a snow day, their extended family and the permanent visit of Aunt Alexandra, all of which develop their character before the trial scene at the climax of the book. Many chapters are individual stories concerning Scout's early life which do not relate to the trial of the legend of Boo Radley. These serve to make the story more realistic and to reinforce the 1930s setting.
Scout and Jem continue to age, and a large portion of the novel deals with a trial which the town attends. A Negro man, Tom Robinson, is on trial for the unproven, probably fictional rape of Mayella Ewell, daughter of the licentious Bob Ewell. Atticus has been hired to defend Tom Robinson. In the end, when Scout and Jem are going home, they are attacked in the dark by the elder Ewell and saved by their childhood legend Boo Radley.
Go Set a Watchman
This novel is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, although Lee wrote it three years prior. It takes place 20 years later, and follows a now adult Scout Finch. The novel was released on July 14, 2015, 55 years after the release of To Kill a Mockingbird.
- President Bush Honors Medal of Freedom Recipients
- "... it was a debut novel written by a woman who’d been earning a living as a clerk for an airline company at the time she’d written it." -- Daniel Clay
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Everbind Books.