Psycho History

exploring history through the eyes of psychologists

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Harper Lee

It is natural for children to yearn for a mother figure in their lives. Motherless children are usually on opposite sides of the spectrum- either extremely responsible or very scattered; they could be very reserved or the "class clown" type. Either way, "all feel the need to find a home" (McDowell). Harper Lee, rejected by her mother, grew up in these extremes. Her mother "rarely talked to any of her four children," and cared more for playing the piano and cross stitching (Shields). In her biography, "Mockingbird, a portrait of Harper Lee," her motive is often that of trying to impress her mother or gain her attention. "She was trying to win her mother's attention by enrolling in a collage that was, in some ways, like the Alabama Girls' School [which her mother attended]" (Shields). She always wanted to feel loved and appreciated by her mother. In her book, "To Kill a Mockingbird", Scout, the character which represents Lee herself, explains that "My mother died when i was two, so i never felt her absence." (Lee). This demonstrates that as a child, Harper felt so extremely disconnected from her mother that she almost considered her to be dead. the lack of relationship between Lee and her mother caused her to feel rejected and unloved. Rejected children are often the ones "who struggle to "fit in" and are those who are different and unique from anyone else." (Dodge). This describes Harper Lee's childhood. While other girls wore dresses and bows, Lee played sports and wrestled with the boys in her blue overalls as the other girls watched in disgust. She spoke up boldly in class and greatly surpassed her peers in reading and writing. Her mother, Disgraced by her peculiar personality, distanced herself from her both physically and emotionally. She refused to love her because she tracked too much mud in the house, got her clothes too dirty, and got into too much trouble at school. The lack of a mother's love caused Lee to strive for her attention by through academics. Yet her desperate striving resulted in achievements that otherwise, would have never been realized. In the end, Lee's writing grew and her vocabulary was exquisite, but the rejection and negligence of her mother robbed her of the satisfaction she so desperately wanted. A parent's love can "make or break" a child, and in Lee's writing, it is made profoundly evident that often the child is left broken.