Harper Lee (1926-)
v Harper Lee is a writer and critic, famous for her one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, written in 1960.
v To Kill a Mockingbird was a bestseller, winning the Pulitzer Prize. It also won a poll in the Library Journal as the best novel of the 20th century.
Truman Capote (1924-1984)
v Apart from writing, Lee helped her childhood friend and author Truman Capote research information for his true crime book, In Cold Blood.
v in 2007, Harper Lee won the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father was a lawyer. Her best friend was the neighbor's son, Truman Capote, who also grew up to be a famous writer.
After finishing college, Lee found an agent, and, through Capote, made friends with the Broadway producer Michael Brown, who gave her enough money to write full time, saying, "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas." Lee used this time to write her only novel, To Kill a Mockinbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird
v This story tells of a southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defends an innocent man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping a young woman. The woman is white, and the defendant, Tom, is black. During the trial, Atticus proves Tom's innocence, and that the sex was consensual. It wasn't until the woman's father found out and beat her, that she told everyone she'd been raped. Although Tom is innocent, he's found guilty, and is later shot while trying to escape prison.
v The story is told from the point of view of Atticus's daughter, Scout, who describes her father as a hero - modest, humble, yet courageous, risking his life to save his client from lynching (when vigilantes kill someone without a fair trial).
v The story also tells of a neighbour down the street named Boo Radley, who never leaves his house, for fear of embarrassing his strict family. A former alcoholic and gambler, Boo lives a lonely life, spent mostly looking out the window. He sometimes leaves gifts for the neighborhood children, hidden in a tree near his house. Although the children fear him as a monster, he's actually a hero, misunderstood by society.
v According to Capote, much of this story is autobiographical, including Boo. "He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true."
v A mockingbird (drozd mnohohlasný) is a songbird that mimics the songs of other birds, fooling them into leaving the mockingbird's territory. In the story, Atticus tells his children to never shoot one because, "they don't do one thing for us but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us". In this story, the mockingbird represents Tom Robinson.
v Lee said about the success of her novel, "I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected."
v The publicity she received made her decide to never write another novel.
v This book was made into an Oscar winning film in 1962, which Lee strongly supported.