Monday, April 26, 2010

The story of To Kill a Mockingbird

Since Harper Lee wrote only one novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, which won a Pulitzer Price, what can one add to this very interesting story?  What fascinates me is that the setting and some of the characters in the novel were drawn from real life.  The main character is Atticus Finch, the attorney who defended a black man on trial for the rape of a white woman.
Besides the fact that Harper's father was a former attorney, her mother's maiden name was Finch.  Since the narrator of the story is Scout, Finch's daughter, one can only conclude that Harper herself may have been telling the tale.  It's well known that one of the characters in the book, Dill Harris, was based on Harper's childhood friend, Truman Capote.

Harper Lee collaborated with Truman Capote on his best seller, In Cold Blood,  while he was working on an article about a murder in Kansas of four members of one family.  She accompanied Capote to Kansas to conduct interviews and assist with research for the story.

An incident in the town of Scottsboro in the 1930's involved the trial of nine black men accused of raping two white women, may have provided the seed of inspiration for the novel.  Race relations in the South were a very sensitive subject and black on white crime, especially male - female crime, was explosive.

How do you top To Kill A Mockingbird? Apparently you don't. Ms. Lee never wrote another book. She left New York and returned to Monroeville, Alabama, where she continues to live a life of quiet solitude.

The title has always intrigued me--Atticus was quoted in the book as telling his children that it was 'a sin to kiil a mockingbird,' after giving air rifles to them as a Christmas present. Their neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, told them that mockingbirds don't do anything but provide beautiful music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up gardens and otherwise cause problems; they just sing for our pleasure.

In 2007 Harper Lee made an appearance at the annual induction of honorees into the Alabama Hall of Fame, of which she is a member. When asked if she'd like to say a few words, her comment was "Well it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

Photo: msnbc

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