18 February 2013
Southern Parallels: An Exploration of the Life of Harper Lee and the Lasting Impact
of To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee is considered one of America’s most enigmatic and influential writers of the twentieth century. Lee’s popular novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, offers readers deep insight into the dynamics of an unconventional family and Southern lifestyle in the1930s. Harper Lee was born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama (Sparknotes.com). According to the author’s official website, Harper Lee was a descendant of famous Civil War general, Robert E. Lee, and daughter to a former newspaper editor turned state senator and practicing attorney.
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He is one of the few residents of Maycomb committed to racial equality. These characteristics are parallel to the behaviors and opinions expressed by Harper Lee’s father throughout her childhood. In addition to the similarities between her father and Atticus Finch, famous author, Truman Capote was among one of Lee’s childhood friends and was the subject from which she drew inspiration for the character Dill (Harperlee.com). In addition to the similarities in characters, Lee’s hometown of Monroeville by many accounts was a small, quiet town much like Maycomb, the eventual setting of her novel. The book’s setting and characters are not the only aspects of the story shaped by events that occurred during Lee’s childhood. In an attempt to expound on the vigilant racism present in the South during the 1930s, Harper Lee parallels experiences of her childhood and the events surrounding one of her father’s work as a trial lawyer. In 1931, nine young black men were accused of raping two white women near Scottsboro, Alabama. After a series of lengthy and highly publicized trials, five of the nine men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms (Shields). According to Charles Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, many prominent lawyers and other American citizens saw the sentences as “spurious and motivated only by racial prejudice” which created suspicions that the women who had accused the men were lying. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch…