This essay discusses the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Nelle Harper Lee who takes inspiration from people around her to create some of the characters in her novel. The essay concerns the reflection of the life and childhood of the author in the characters of the novel.
Harper Lee, born as Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama, US is an America writer, highly acclaimed throughout the world for her creation “To Kill a Mockingbird”. She studied Law from 1945 to 1949 at the University of Alabama before transferring to England at the University of Oxford for a year as an exchange student (Gale, 2019). However, Lee dropped out from the course and decided to venture to New York in hopes of become a writer. She worked as a reservationist in an airline company in New York for a while but soon her friends helped her financially that allowed her to pursue writing, full-time. In 1957, Lee submitted her manuscript which her publisher felt was a series of short stories and needed a rewrite. Lee spent the next few years refining her manuscript that was soon to be known as “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, published in 1960. In 1961, the novel received the Pulitzer Prize and a year later was made into a motion picture starring Gregory Peck (Gale, 2019).
The storyline of the novel is based on the author’s father Amasa Coleman Lee’s futile attempt at defending two African Americans convicted for rape and murder of a white woman (Djuana & Jaya, 2021). It is important to note here that Lee’s father Amasa Coleman Lee was a lawyer who resembles the fierce lawyer of the novel, Atticus Finch (Fender, 2018). Some say that the narrator Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, daughter of Atticus Finch was the author’s autobiographical character. However, the author maintained that the portrayal was not intended to resemble her childhood, instead an unspecific Southern town. Among the author’s childhood friends there was one, the future essayist Truman Capote, from whom she drew inspiration for Dill, Scout and her brother Jem’s best friend (Fender, 2018). The setting and characters of the novel is shaped by some events that took place during Lee’s childhood. When Lee was five, in 1931, a group of African American men were accused of violating two white women in the region of Scottsboro in Alabama (Johnson, 2019). The Nation Witnessed Five Of The Nine Men Receiving Life Long Prison Time After a Lengthy And Series Of Highly Publicized Court Trials Sentences Were Believed to be motivated by racial prejudice, by many citizens and prominent lawyers. Many aspects of the novel has some resemblance to Lee’s childhood, including Lee’s birthplace Monroeville that was a model for the novel’s Maycomb. Lee also gave all three names of her mother to different characters and Boo Radley was evidently based on a neighbor of the Lees. On several occasions Lee herself had stated that she was inspired by her father for developing the character of Atticus Finch (Djuana & Jaya, 2021).
Thus it can be concluded that the novel was a reflection of the author’s childhood and it was evident in many ways as discussed above. Lee went on to produce more works in the 1960s such as “Christmas to Me” and “Love – In Other Words”.
Djuana, I. N., & Jaya, I. G. A. K. (2021, April). The Extrinsic Elements of Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird. In ISSHE 2020: Proceedings of the First International Seminar Social Science, Humanities and Education, ISSHE 2020, 25 November 2020, Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia (p. 430). European Alliance for Innovation. https://eprints.eudl.eu/id/eprint/2990/1/eai.25-11-2020.2306681.pdf
Fender, S. (2018). To Kill a Mockingbird. Connell Guides. https://box2346.temp.domains/~libnoble/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/The-Connell-eGuide-to-To-Kill-A-Mockingbird.pdf
Gale, C. (2019). A Study Guide (New Edition) for Harper Lee's" To Kill a Mockingbird". Gale, Cengage. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=2UCIDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT2&dq=harper+lee+She+studied+Law+from+1945+to+1949+at+the+University+of+Alabama+before+transferring+to+England+at+the+University+of+Oxford+for+a+year+as+an+exchange+student&ots=8z3tTMbRyy&sig=bUucP8hFp9PawrynaYhIjP6p5mk&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
Johnson, A. (2019). Racism in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Literary Cultures, 2(1). https://journals.ntu.ac.uk/index.php/litc/article/view/152/81