Harper Lee

the enigma behind award-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird

Who is Harper Lee?

Nelle Harper Lee, the youngest of four children born to Amasa Coleman Lee & Francis Cunningham Finch Lee, was born in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926. Her father was a lawyer, member of Alabama State Legislature and co-owner of the local newspaper. Her mother was a simple housewife, suffering from mental illness, including possibly a bipolar disease. As a child, Lee befriended another soon-to-be author known as Truman Capote. Truman didn't exactly have an easy home life since he was abandoned by his own parents, nevertheless Harper was his protector.
Even though her efforts of studying law at the University of Alabama and Oxford University were part of the family business, Lee dropped out after the first semester. At the age of 23, despite the disapproval of her father, Lee moved to New York City working as an airline reservation agent, besides writing fiction as a hobby. With little luck, Harper found an agent in November 1956. A month later, she received a Christmas present of a year's wages with a note: "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas." Guided by her editor, Lee published the 1960 Pulitzer-winning novel, 'To Kill A Mockingbird'.

Overall Influence?

'To Kill A Mockingbird' considers family, friendship, forgiveness & having the courage to stand against society's belief, including the atmosphere surrounding the time of African American segregation in the South. Atticus Finch, through the use of metaphors, teaches the universal lesson of 'standing in someone else's shoes and viewing from their perspective' or 'climbing into someone else's skin and walking around in it.' Whereas Tom Robinson and Boo Radley gain this experience, the Finch children never fully comprehend this.

Connection to 'To Kill A Mockingbird'?

Let alone this story revolves around the real life events of Nelle Harper Lee likewise in:

  • Family: her older brother & father resemble Jem & Atticus Finch; Both her father as well as Atticus had defended black men who were found guilty; her mother's maiden name was Finch
  • Personality: Lee resembles herself as the tom-boyish character Scout; In her 20's, the death of her mother is portrayed in Scout as a motherless child
  • Friends: Harper's childhood friend, Truman Capote, served as the inspiration of Dill likewise Truman based a character on Lee in his book, 'Other Voices, Other Rooms'
  • Setting: Maycomb, Scout's hometown, models after Harper Lee's hometown, Monroeville, Alabama; both towns contained a mix of segregationists and revolved around the Civil Rights Movement
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Lesson #1


  • Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
  • "The Big Read." To Kill a Mockingbird. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
  • "Investigation: Can Harper Lee Fully Regain To Kill a Mockingbird from Her Agent?" Vanity Fair. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.