Harper Lee and "To Kill a Mockingbird" - her one and only novel?

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Harper Lee as a young woman.
Harper Lee as a young woman. | Source
Accepting the Medal of Freedom from then President George W. Bush for her contributions to American literature.
Accepting the Medal of Freedom from then President George W. Bush for her contributions to American literature. | Source

On why Lee never wrote again

"Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird, for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again."

---- Harper Lee

On why she rarely gave interviews

"Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

---- Harper Lee

On what she said in a 2006 letter written to O Magazine

"Now 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."

---- Harper Lee

Harper Lee on the set with producer Alan J. Pakula of the filming of her novel.
Harper Lee on the set with producer Alan J. Pakula of the filming of her novel. | Source

One of the best novels in American literature and my all time favorite is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. So eloquently written and woven together it is in my opinion the best novel ever written. A story of the south in the 1950s and the racism and prejudice that ran rampant then, this iconic novel meanders along in the life of two children, Scout and Jem, and their loss of childhood innocence and their emergence into the adult world of thinking and understanding.

It also has one of the greatest characters ever created -- Atticus Finch, the lawyer in a southern town that has integrity and a moral compass always pointing north. This character is the embodiment of what a fine attorney is with the moral authority to handle the racist court case that is handed to him. And the good sense and moral authority to teach his children well about the events happening around them.

Lee is known for her 1961 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) which raises the issues of racism she observed growing up in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. It also addresses the issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the deep American south.

Therefore, it is also a novel of tolerance and against prejudice of all kinds. It is the only novel Lee ever wrote.

Much of this wonderful novel has autobiographical leanings to it from Lee's own life. She was born Nelle Harper Lee in 1926. She was named after her grandmother (Ellen) whose name is Nelle spelled backwards. She was the youngest of five children born to Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch. Her mother was a homemaker.

Her father was a former newspaper editor and proprietor who also practiced law and served in the Alabama State Legislature from 1926-1938. It is from her father that she takes her model for her character of Addicus Finch.

Her father once defended two black men, a father and a son, accused of murdering a white storekeeper. Both were found guilty and hanged. It is believed this incident figured prominently in the novel she would grow up to write.

Lee was a precocious reader and tomboy as a child, and the main character in her novel, Scout, is based on Lee herself. Her best friend, schoolmate, and neighbor growing up in Munroeville was none other than Truman Capote. She based the character of Dill after Capote in her novel.

She graduated from her town's high school and attended the all female Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. She stood apart from the other students in that she focused on her studies and on her writing. She was not attending college to obtain her 'Mrs. degree,' which was the thing to do in those days.

She was a member of the literary honor society and glee club. She was known as a loner and individualist and eventually transferred to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where, surprisingly, she joined a sorority for a while. She continued with her writing there and became a writer on the college newspaper and became editor of the university's humor magazine called Rammer Jammer.

In her junior year she was accepted to law school at the University of Alabama into a special program that allowed students to pursue a law degree as an undergraduate.

After a year in the program she decided she preferred writing so that summer she became an exchange student attending Oxford University in England. When she arrived home after the summer exchange program, she dropped out of law school and in 1943 at age 23 she moved to New York City to pursue a writing career.

To make ends meet while writing, she worked as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines and for British Overseas Air Corp. Also, at this time in New York she was reunited with old friend, Truman Capote, who was becoming a rising literary star of his own in New York.

By November 1956, she finally found a publishing agent had some short stories published in magazines. Then, in December 1956 she received quite the Christmas gift from her agent. She was given a year's wages from him with a note that said, "You have one year off your job to write whatever you please . . ."

She immediately quit the airline job and devoted the year to her writing and by the end of the year she had completed her first draft of her novel. The next two and a half years were filled with re-writing and editing her novel.

The final manuscript was published on July 11, 1960 as To Kill a Mockingbird. Although she worried about how it would be received, she needn't have bothered. It was an immediate best seller and stood up to great critical acclaim. A year later she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the novel.

Today, To Kill a Mockingbird, remains a best-seller and there are more than thirty million copies in print. It also has become required reading in high schools and colleges. Library Journal has named it "Best Novel of the Century."

After publication of her novel and book tour, Lee accompanied Truman Capote to Holcomb, Kansas to assist him in researching his subsequent novel, In Cold Blood.


Since the publication of her novel, Lee has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances. She has accepted honorary degrees from universities but has declined to speak at any functions. She has gone on to publish a few short essays, but really nothing else.

She did begin writing another novel -- The Long Goodbye, but eventually filed it away unfinished and has never picked it up again.

She felt the film adaption of her novel of the same name in 1962 was one of "the best translations of a book to film ever made." The Academy Award winning screenplay was written by Horton Foote.

She and Gregory Peck, who played Addicus Finch in the film, and his family became great friends and a Peck grandson is named after her, Harper Peck Voll.

By 1966 the novel had become controversial when a Richmond, Virginia area school board pronounced her novel "immoral literature," because the story was based around a rape, and because of the language and profanity in the book, the board ordered all schools to dispose of all copies of the novel.

She wrote a written response to the board and said in part, ". . . .surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird, spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners."

The American Library Association has stated that To Kill a Mockingbird was number twenty-one of the one hundred most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009 because of racial slurs, profanity and the candid discussion of rape.

From then on after the publication of her novel, Lee split her time between her New York City apartment and her sister's home in Monroeville, Alabama. During the 70's and 80's Lee mostly retreated from public life.

Today, she continues to live a private, quiet life. She is now elderly and confined to a wheelchair and is partially blind and deaf and is beginning to lose her memory. Fortunately, through her great novel she will always be remembered as a vibrant and strong writer.


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A Mockingbird
A Mockingbird | Source
Scout and Addicus as portrayed in the film, 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' (1962)
Scout and Addicus as portrayed in the film, 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' (1962) | Source
Tom Robinson as portrayed in the film of Lee's novel.
Tom Robinson as portrayed in the film of Lee's novel. | Source
Boo Radley, portrayed by Robert Duvall, in the film of Lee's novel.  This was Duvall's  first film role.
Boo Radley, portrayed by Robert Duvall, in the film of Lee's novel. This was Duvall's first film role. | Source
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird - the novel

The reason this novel has been acclaimed as a great American novel is because of the symbolism of the mockingbird and the themes of racism, morality and social inequality.

We never actually see or come across a mockingbird in the novel, but the symbolism of the bird stands out throughout the novel and Lee goes back to this symbol many times as she weaves her seamless story.

Lee imparts her life lessons and knowledge learned growing up in Monroeville, through her main character, Scout, based on Lee herself. What Lee herself observed, Scout observes in the novel. And, what Lee has learned from her father, Scout learns from her father, Addicus Finch.

First, is the lesson on innocence. Lee uses the mockingbird as a symbol of innocence in her novel. Atticus tells Scout, when they have received BB guns as gifts, you can kill all the bluejays you want, but "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Scout isn't quite sure she understands so she asks the family housekeeper exactly what her father means. The houskeeper explains that mockingbirds never harm other creatures. They simply provide pleasure with their songs. "They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us."

So, in other words, to kill a mockingbird is to kill something pure and harmless. What the title of the book means to the novel is to kill a mockingbird is to kill that which is innocent and harmless. Who are the innocent and harmless in the small town of Maycomb in the novel?

Scout comes to learn from her father's many lessons that Tom Robinson, the African - American he defends against the charge of raping a white woman, is the chief example among several innocents destroyed carelessly or deliberately throughout the novel.

And it is the innocence of Boo Radley who saves Scout and Jem from a bloody death at the end of the novel. Scout comes to learn and to understand Boo Radley as a 'mockingbird.' That is someone with an inner goodness that must be cherished and not harmed.

Boo had been an intelligent child ruined by a cruel father. Yet, Boo becomes the most important 'mockingbird' in Scout, Jem and Addicus' lives when he saves the children at the end of the novel. He is the ultimate symbol of good despite his own childhood pain, as he recognizes and saves the children.

Scout observes, "when they finally saw him (Boo), why he hadn't done any of those things, Atticus, he was real nice." And, Addicus responds, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

Scout is able to realize that Boo likes them and helped them by sewing the tear in the jeans that were caught on the barb wired fence. They realize he is the one leaving them the cute objects in the hollow of the tree. Therefore she sees and learns of Boo's goodness.

Addicus Finch, of course, symbolizes the stallworth attorney, a model of integrity for the legal profession. He is almost seen as a real person. Many attorneys today cite the Atticus Finch character as why they became attorneys. He symbolizes the moral idealism with which we look at the profession.

In fact, the Michigan Law Review has written about the Addicus Finch character, "No real-life lawyer has done more for the self-image or public perception of the legal profession."


Themes of the novel

One of the most important themes in the novel is the exploration of the moral nature of human beings. Are people essentially good or evil? The answer to that question is not always black and white. Lee weaves racism and the events connected with it to show us the the evil in human beings.

Scout and Jem's childhood innocence is lost by the end of the novel. For the first time in their lives they are confronted with, observe, and experience evil. What Addicus does as a father is teach them that one must incorporate evil and the understanding of it into their perspective of their world.

He teaches them of the threat that hatred, prejudice and ignorance pose to the innocent people, Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. They are destroyed by an evil they are not prepared to encounter in life.

What is unique about the character Addicus Finch is that he is an individual that has encountered evil without losing his faith in the human capacity for goodness and he passes this on to his children. It is Scout that accepts his lessons the best and has an understanding of them. Jem, by the end of the novel, has become disillusioned so much that he has more difficulty in understanding them.

Addicus understands that people are not good or evil - one or the other - but a bit of both, full of good and bad qualities. He appreciates the good and understands the bad qualities. He treats others with sympathy and compassion and is able to see life from their perspective.

He has the moral authority to understand it is possible to live with a conscience without losing hope or becoming cynical. Scout, at the end sees Boo Radley as a complete and full human being and she is the more perceptive of the two children.

Scout has learned to view the world and understand it as her father does. Jem is more disillusioned and becomes more cynical through their experiences.


Another important theme in the book is the importance of instilling a moral education in children. We see the story through the perspective of the children and how they are carefully taught to move from innocence to adulthood which recurs throughout the novel.

Atticus, as father, devotes himself to instilling a social conscience in Jem and Scout. They learn from Atticus that the most important lessons are those of sympathy and understanding and teaching through sympathy and empathy is the correct approach to teaching these lessons. Atticus is an excellent teacher because of this.

He, as a teacher, is contrasted with the school teacher who teaches from her 'correct positions' on the curriculum, but doesn't impart sympathy, empathy and understanding in any of her lessons, and so is shown to be the lesser teacher.

And, social inequality is also an important theme in the novel. The social hierarchy of Maycomb baffles and bewilders the children. The Finches are well-off and at the top of the social hierarchy. Next, come the townspeople, then the ignorant country farmers, represented by the Cunninghams, then the 'white trash' that the Ewells represent and then the African-American community at the bottom of the barrel. These African-Americans are truly better people than the Ewells or even the Ignorant country farmers, but are relegated to the bottom just because of their color.

Rob Ewell, who represents the 'white trash' of Maycomb, makes up for his own lack of importance and place on the social hierarchy by persecuting Tom Robinson and Ewell becomes the ultimate symbol of evil in the novel for this persecution and then at the end his attempt to kill Scout and Jem.

Scout and Jem must begin to confront and understand these rigid social divisions that make up their world by the events that are happening around them and what they experience.

As time has marched on, Lee has been criticized by many because they felt her treatment of racism in Maycomb was not condemned harshly enough. Many feel Atticus Finch simply worked within 'the system' and the racism of the 50's in the south. Many felt his character should have done more for Tom Robinson.

The novel has also been criticized for the marginalizing of the African-American characters. What seems wonderful and powerful to one group of people may be degrading to another group.

I believe Lee wrote realistically of the south and the times (1950's) and that the novel doesn't warrant this criticism at all. Lee portrayed what she observed growing up and the racism of the time and how it was dealt with. We cannot apply another era to her work and then call her work or the novel not well done. This novel has to be viewed through the telescope of the times it was written in, a specific time and how she viewed it all through that telescope.

Perhaps it is her novel that was one factor in the African-American's protesting in the 1960s and demanding their civil rights. Change for African-Americans did come after the publication of her novel so rich in its moral teachings and empathy for the other man.

Update: April 2015. Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird will no longer be her "one and only novel." On July 2015, her publishers are publishing a 'first' novel she wrote, Go Set a Watchman. She wrote this first novel about her character Scout as an adult returning to her hometown for a visit, and submitted it to her publisher, who asked her to improved upon it. Her improvement was her famous and popular novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lee had always said she would not publish another novel and it is only when she is old and infirm and reportedly not with her complete faculties that the publisher is publishing this 'novel.' I personally do not believe Harper Lee really knows or understands that this book is being published and would not appreciate the fact of its being published if she were in control of her full faculties. It is also being published as an e-book, which Lee repeatedly has said in interviews she dislikes new technology and would never have her books published digitally. I am not at all sure Lee knows what is going on and I think the publishers are taking advantage of an older woman to appease their greed.


Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved

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Comments 48 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well, I think you already know how I feel about this novel....the greatest novel ever written!

And you did such a wonderful job of reviewing it. I would love to meet Harper Lee....I think it would be fascinating to pick her brain.

Lovely job, Suzette. I thoroughly enjoyed this hub.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

billy: I did not know you considered this the best novel ever written. I think so too and I love it. So glad you enjoyed reading this and thanks for your kind comments.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Suzzette,

You have outdone yourself here in this very thorough and interesting hub of one of the greatest novels of all time and my favorite as well!!!

Wow, I did not know it was the only novel she had ever written. Now, that is astounding to say the least!

Every aspect of this hub is fascinating and you have done an excellent job here! Bravo!

Voted up ++++ and sharing (buttons not showing up now, but will return to share!)

Keep up the excellent work. You are an amazing writer, very gifted, as I am sure I have told you before.

God bless, Faith Reaper


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Faith: Thank you so much. Isn't it remarkable that she writes just one novel in her life and it has had so much acclaim and has stood the test of time. It is a classic, timeless novel. Don't we all wish we could do this? Just write that one great definitive novel. I think she has had such an interesting life. And she did not write this overnight. I mean she was in New York City for many years, before her novel and success came about. Thanks so much for reading this - it is so long, I know. Your comments are appreciated!


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 3 years ago from Philippines

I never knew that Harper Lee only wrote one book. It's strange, but it makes one think. I understand that Margaret Mitchell also wrote only one book, Gone With the Wind. Well, if you're only going to write one book, you might as well make it a classic:) . I very much enjoy your series about book authors.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi suzette, I am ashamed to say I have never read the book, but of course I have seen the film, and yes its certainly a classic. There was also another similar film that was very good too, but I can't remember the name of it, along similar lines there is a part when the lawyer in court says' close your eyes and imagine this horrible deed (child attacked etc) then at the end he says, 'open your eyes and imagine a white child! the impact nearly knocks you out! so similar to kill a Mockingbird, this was a great review now I really want to watch it again, voted up, and shared, nell


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

grand old lady: Thank you so much for reading this. Yes, she wrote one book and did she write a winner. Margaret Mitchell, too. Thanks for your comments and I so glad you are familiar with our literature. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Philippine literature - I studied American and English literature in college but very little world literature. There are some disadvantages to our education system here in the U.S. lol But, thanks for reading and if you can suggest any Philippine literature to me, I would be appreciative.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Dearest Nell: You are off the hook if you haven't read this novel. I haven't read all the English novels either. The movie covers the book quite well. I know the one you mean and I have the video. Let me check. It's "A Time to Kill" with Matthew McConnehey, Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson. Great movie. McConnehey as the attorney says that in his closing argument to the jury. I love movies and I don't miss too many. McConnehey's (sp) latest movie "Mud" by the way is a great movie. One of his best performances. No kidding. I'm off on a tangent. Thanks so much for reading this Nell and for your comments. Most appreciated;


SusanSaies profile image

SusanSaies 3 years ago

Growing up in Alabama, I remember all the excitement when this incredible book was brought to life. Mary Badham from Birmingham got the part of Scout, and another local kid, Philip Alford, got the part of her brother, Jem. Mary had never acted before, but her mother had acted on local stages, and took her to a casting call. The producers of the movie were intent on having local children who wouldn't have to learn Southern accents. Philip had been in a few local plays. They were both perfect for their roles, and became the focus of a tremendous amount of envy!

By the way, may I ask about your copyright notice at the end of this review? Is there something you have to submit somewhere in order to be able to insert this notice and have it really legal?


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

When I heard about To Kill a Mockingbird, I thought Harper Lee was a man. (Cross cultural barrier, actually). I have this book, but I have not read it. Many years ago, I bought the book, but before I began reading a friend of mine gave me a DVD of a movie by the same name.

Maye I should read the novel.


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

Wow, what a fantastic review! I also like that you went into detail about the author. Fascinating.

I admit, I have never read the entire book. I will have to salvage that, and hunt the book down.

Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up and sharing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Susan Saies: Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. So good to hear about how the children were cast. They were absolutely perfect for their roles. I'm so glad they had local children cast as I think it made the movie so much better. Every southern state has its own southern accent I have learned and particular jargon and way of talking so doing that was brilliant. I have a legal copyright done through an attorney and it is in Washington DC, I believe in the Library of Congress. So my copyright is really legal. When you push the publish button on HP it is automatically copyrighted I understand from HP Learning Center. I have also copyrighted my work on a copyright website which is really legal also. I can't remember the name of the site right now. It might just be www.copyright.com, but if you google copyright I'm sure you'll find it. Some of our hubs have been stolen and reproduced without our knowledge in the past. It has happened to me. We had the sight closed down and our hubs removed. I have had bloggers lift my writings, but they have always included my copyright and name when they put it on their blog, even though they did that without permission. But, as long as I am given credit, I haven't made a fuss about it. I check back on these blogs from time to time to see if my name and copyright is still there and so far it is. It is hard to write on the internet because of lifting and stealing of work, but I also have wanted to get feedback on my writing as I truly just started writing on line oh, it will be two years this August.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Vinaya: It doesn't surprise me that you would think it was a man with a name like Harper. The name is given to girls and boys here in the U.S. so I guess it's a unisex name. The film pretty much follows the book so you truly know the novel, but read it sometime it is worthwhile. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. And, I want you to know I love the avatar you made for Faith. You are quite talented and so knowledge able about these computers and how to do that sort of thing. Kudos to you!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Kathryn: Thank you so much for your comments. You are so kind. I like to give the author's life sometimes when I write a book review because as writers their lives are so interesting. Also, I love her quotes on why she wrote only one book etc. They are such a hoot I think. I love their stories as to how they became writers as it gives us ideas of how to go about it. Also, it shows she lived in New York City about 16 years before she got an book publisher and agent who would pay her to write the book. I think it's important for us all to realize, being a true writer is not always an overnight success. So glad you enjoyed this and thank you for the share and votes. Most appreciated.


SusanSaies profile image

SusanSaies 3 years ago

Thanks so much for the interesting copyright information. By the way, Harper Lee's full name is Nelle Harper Lee. "Nelle" was purposely chosen because it is "Ellen" backwards. "Ellen" was the name of her mother, I think, or maybe it was another close female relative. She was called "Nelle" in her family, but chose to publish as Harper Lee.


rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

Wow......awesome article! You reminded me of what an incredible novel To Kill A Mockingbird was, is and will always be. One of the best books ever written. I read the book a couple of times and I saw the movie several times. Gregory Peck's portrayal of Addicus Finch was phenomenal. Thank you so much for sharing! Take care. (Voted up)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Susan: Thanks - I do have that in the article. She was named after her grandmother and Nelle is her grandmother's name, Ellen, spelled backwards. It's about five or six paragraphs down from the beginning of the article. Thanks and you are welcome for the info.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

rose the planner: Thank you and I am glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, it is an incredible novel and a favorite. I loved Gregory Peck in the role of Addicus Finch and he has always been associated with that role as he too was a man of integrity. Thanks for the vote. Much appreciated.


las81071 profile image

las81071 3 years ago

This is by far the best hub I have ever read. Thank you


epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Now that was a fabulous comment up above.

I think all of your hubs are the best hubs I've ever read and this true classic and labor of love by you , Suzette is no exception.

This is the definitive introduction I would say for anyone to check out the movie and the book. I remember seeing it again as an 'adult' not too long ago and it definitely took on another perspective for me. It is always a film which looks better in black and white. I hope they leave it alone and avoid doing a remake.

So thank you my dear Suzette for your world class efforts here - and I bet you the lady author of this book would be so flattered by your research and respectful attention to a time and a place and the people who populated it.

Sending you warm wishes and good karma from Colin and his cats on a full moon night over the lake and listening to the fabulous Scott Walker - check out his solo stuff from the 60's at you tube

lake erie time 9:25pm

Posting this great work on my FB page with a direct link back here.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Las: Thank you so much are your are too kind. There are many more hubs out there for you to read before you make that judgment. But, thank you so much and your visit is most appreciated


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Colin: Thank you so much. The above hubber must be new and hasn't read much here on HP. Obviously, he hasn't read your poetry. That is the best here on HP. I hope there is never a remake of this movie. I don't think it could ever be improved upon in any way. I wouldn't even want to see it in color - the black and white version adds to its depth and drama. Full moon up there? Hmmmm. Thanks for recommending Scott Walker - haven't heard of him and no he is not a relation. lol If you recommend him he must be good.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

suzette - What a splendid, splendid review of one of my all -time favorite novels. I have read it over and over and over through out the years. And what an incredible Atticus and Boo, Peck and Duvall were. I had no idea she only wrote the one novel. Thank you for writing this. Thank you, thank you. Sharing. Theresa


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

Excellent! Hello, Suzette, and thank you, Colin, for recommending that I come by and visit this good hub, so jam-packed with information! You brought in many peripheral facts which flesh-out the background, Suzette!

I was interested in the fact that Harper Lee's first name was Nelle, after her grandmother's, but spelled backwards;- in other words, Ellen. My name is from the same family of names, of course. I understand that Ellen, Eleanor, Nell, Nellie, and Helen are among a long list of related names.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" is one of my favorite novels, too. The movie is great, but the book is better. You certainly covered it thoroughly! As Colin said, your introduction to the book would make anyone want to read it for himself!

Just a bit of personal association with this book: Quite a few years ago, I read and followed a self-help program on writing fiction (which is not my forte, by the way!) My reading for a number of years had been strictly serious non-fiction, though I'd read lots of novels earlier-on. One of the major assignments was to read a list of specific novels for the purpose of intently studying their various styles. They ranged from "War and Peace", "Madame Bovary", "Tom Jones", "The Pearl", "From Here To Eternity". . . and, of course, "To Kill A Mockingbird" was among them! It was quite a reading assignment! That was when I fell totally in love with the book, - everything about it, which the assignment guaranteed noticing, almost as 'through a microscope'!

The film is well-done, too. As Colin said, it needs to be left alone in black and white. The story is rather stark as it casts its candid spotlight on that era, the strong characters and life style; B&W is needed to depict it best.

The 50s were the era in which I graduated from college, first worked, married and started my own family, here in my home state, Texas, where almost the same conditions prevailed for people in the same 'boat' as the characters in the book, as Harper Lee's own Alabama experience had seen it all, first-hand. It does 'ring true'.

What a pity that some take offense at the book for depicting it 'as it was'. Certainly, 'as it was' WAS offensive; but Harper Lee's ability to capture that so intimately for posterity is a service to history and helped improve what was wrong at the time.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

PS - I notice the mention of "A TimeTo Kill" in these comments, but didn't notice anyone mentioning its author. The film is based on the novel by John Grisham, whose legal background in the South permeates almost all his excellent novels.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you Theresa, This is one of my favorite books also and it says so much, especially about the times. The movie was phenomenal and the cast was perfect. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments - most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nelliana: I think this book will always have a special place in American literature and in the hearts of Americans. Because it is seen through the perspective and eyes of the children, I think we can all relate to it and to our own childhoods and how we learned these important lessons in life. The books you read on assignment I have read them all with the exception of 'Tom Jones' and 'From here to Eternity', but I have seen these two as movies. All of them are wonderful novels and richly written. I would highly recommend these books to anyone. Yes, there was some criticism of Lee and her novel over the years and I wanted to include that in my article because I feel the criticism is unwarranted. I almost see Mockingbird as the perfect novel, if such a thing exists. Thanks again for your comments - most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nellieanna: Yes, I do know that 'A Time to Kill' was written by John Grisham. I have read a number of his novels over the years and they are always so good. I saw the movie on this one, but haven't read the novel. The last novel by Grisham I read was 'The Racketeer.' Great novel and so engaging. I think his are the best of the legal novels.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

I see we share a life-long love of books! Thank you for your lovely replies to my comment!

Oh, by the way, - one of Grisham's novels which is not my preference and which I've 'read' only as an audiobook, listened to on a long trip in the car, was "The Painted House'. I found it dreary and disappointing, which are not adjectiveS I could ever apply to any of his other many works with which I'm familiar! I've not seen the TV rendition of it, however, nor read it in book form. Perhaps there was something about the audio rendition which threw the pall over it for me. Perhaps if I hadn't had my expectations for a Grisham story, it would have seemed better. In any case - that was my take on it.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nellieanna: I don't know of Grisham's 'The Painted House.' That one I have not heard of before. I didn't even know there was a TV adaption of it. Every author that writes multiple books doesn't hit it out of the ballpark every novel. He has some many great books that one dreary one, as you say, isn't too bad for an author. Thanks so much for your responses.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

Excellent book review and biographical article! I enjoyed the quotes and insight into the author's life...I had read this book in high school too, but (like F. Scott Fitzgerald) did not know about this fascinating woman either! ~Lurana


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

So glad you enjoyed this. It is my favorite novel and just think the only one she ever wrote. To this day it is a best-seller. I think these writers always have such interesting lives. Thanks so much for your comments and for reading this.


savvydating profile image

savvydating 3 years ago

Excellent hub. Everyone who appreciates good books has this novel on their bookshelf - or they should. How interesting that the authors own life so closely mirrored the the story. I can't even believe this novel has been criticized. For crying out loud, it was written back in the 50's. Politically correct people drive me crazy. Anyway, I loved the quote at the end. So perfect. Thanks for writing this beautiful hub.

Up & Awesome.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

savvydating: Thank you for your lovely comments. I appreciate your reading this and for your insightful words. I can't imagine criticizing this novel either, but there are always critics I have found out in life. I am so glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the votes.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 3 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

A marvelous Hub, great book, and an intriguing film; definitely a worthy milestone of American literature. Thank you suzettenaples; many clicks, and sharing.

Kindest Regards,

Romeo's Quill


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Romeo: Thank you so much for reading this hub and I'm glad you enjoyed it. It is one of our nation's best novels, I think. The film is excellent too. Thanks for your visit - most appreciated.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Margaret Mitchell only published one also. Who knows what she wrote only for herself? Great job here.


Kiss andTales profile image

Kiss andTales 2 years ago

Just to add to the subject of this famous book is the value in of the old written book is 1,700.00 in value .but I believe the value in Auction has topped that in the thousands


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 2 years ago from Sacramento, California

Amazing book. One of the best. Atticus Finch one of the greatest literary heroes, in my humble opinion.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Kathleen: Thank you so much for your visit and comments. I didn't know Margaret Mitchell only wrote one novel, but then it doesn't surprise me. With both these novels it is hard to imagine the authors writing anything better. One great novel is worth several mediocre novels. Thanks for your visit and I am glad you enjoyed this hub.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Kiss and Tales: An original copy of this book brings in a lot of money. I never knew this but it doesn't surprise me. It is the perfect novel in my book. LOL! Thanks so much for your visit and for your most interesting information. I appreciate your visit.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

bgpappa: I have to agree with your whole-heartedly. Atticus Finch is the greatest of the literary characters and heroes. His gentleness brought strength to him as an individual and in the courtroom. His character is so different from the 'super heroes' of today and the action films. Atticus Finch is the quinsentential character of all times.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 17 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Suzette, I had to comment on your update to this excellent article about my favorite author with regard to your suspicions regarding the publication of "Go Set A Watchman." I wholeheartedly agree with you. I am paraphrasing a comment I recently posted on another site:

Sadly, we are now inundated with the feeding frenzy of those who never bothered to familiarize themselves with the magnificent author, Nelle Harper Lee. One thing was paramount with Ms. Lee: To never publish anything that could be compared, remotely, to Mockingbird. It flies in the face of everything she held dear for decades. With her sister Alice's passing, no one is left to protect this extraordinary woman and author except the vultures who have hyped this publication to the uniformed, and the uncaring.

Watchman was the precursor to Mockingbird. The critics have been less than enthusiastic about this new novel for precisely the same reasons publishers originally encouraged Ms. Lee to re-write the entire story-line from the perspective of the young Scout, narrated in the first-person: "To Kill A Mockingbird," the most superb novel ever written. This also explains why many passages/paragraphs can be found in both books, almost verbatim.

Ms. Lee obviously never intended to publish Watchman in its current, unedited and rambling form -- if ever, which I highly doubt. If this were not the case, she would have worked on this novel, tirelessly, with an editor, to finish an independent work that clearly stands apart from Mockingbird without the conspicuous overlaps, and with the superior quality, workmanship and the perfectionist's eye that are synonymous with Harper Lee.

I'm just a part-time writer who understands and respects other writers. How unfortunate that many readers can't do the same. An UNEDITED, first manuscript of a young, aspiring writer that was turned down, initially, and then used as the foundation for the Pulitzer-winning masterpiece that Ms. Lee subsequently worked on for two long years? Who are these people trying to kid? They are as literature-illiterate as they are despicable. Sadly, this is all about money and avarice.

Sorry for the long post.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 17 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

I should have added that "Scout's" flashback's in time were in Watchmen, which impressed Ms. Lee's original publishers/agents, and formed part of the basis for their recommendations for the re-write.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 16 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Genna: so eloquently and well said! I agree with you 100 %. Watchman was never meant to be published and is just the greed of whoever is in charge of Lee's affairs at the moment. I haven't decided whether I am going to read it or not. Thanks for your opinion and it is not too long. lol!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 16 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Genna; Interesting to know! Thanks!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 16 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Suzette - Oh what timing to "re-stumble" upon your wonderful essay just as this "supposed" book by Harper Lee is coming out. Like you, I don't doubt it is a rough first draft from many years ago, but don't think she meant to publish it or understands what is happening now. Greed is a terrible thing. Thank you so much for such a wonderful essay on Harper and To Kill a Mockingbird, a great classic. Theresa


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 16 months ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Theresa: Thanks for reading this and for your opinion. I think it is awful that Lee is being taken advantage of in her elderly years. She no longer has her sister to defend her and look out for her. Greed is what it is all about. I don't know whether I will read Watchman or not. Part of me doesn't want to add to the greed by buying the book. I suppose I could get a copy from the library. But I don't believe Lee ever wanted this to be published or she would have done it years ago.

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