The literary celebrity and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Harper Lee, unfortunately passed away Feb. 19. The groundbreaking novelist was 89 years old when she passed away in her sleep.
Harper resided in Alabama, the same state as the setting of her famous novel. Lee grew up in a small town, where her father was a lawyer, and her good friend Truman Capote would visit every summer which she also worked on “In Cold Blood” with. They later worked together on numerous projects in their adult lives.
Due to the many parallels seen between“To Kill A Mockingbird” and Harper Lee’s life, it is believed that Lee modeled the main character, Scout, after herself. When Lee was writing her novel she did not expect for it to reach the success it did, let alone any success at all. She struggled with the fame her book brought her, because she never really wanted it in the first place.
After “To Kill A Mockingbird” was published, fans hoped for another book, or a possible sequel from Lee. Neither came until around fifty years later. The publishing of a second book by Harper Lee was a surprise to many, seeing as she had sworn to never publish another book, and because of her declining health and age. A manuscript submitted by Lee to her editors in 1957 titled “Go Set a Watchman” was published in 2015. The novel is thought to be a sequel of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” While the recently published novel was thought to be controversial, due to the acceptance of racial bigotry among some of the main characters, it was still successful, climbing to the top of the bestseller list, and selling over a million copies in the first week.
Overall, Harper Lee was a quiet, private person, who did not enjoy or feel comfortable dealing with her success. In an interview with The Associated Press, Lee said “Success has had a very bad effect on me,” and then later in the interview adding, “I’ve gotten fat - but extremely uncomplacent. I’m running just as scared as before.” She acted in a way that supported these statements. She did very few interviews, published nothing more than a few articles, and rarely made public appearances. One of her last interviews was in 1964, and from there was really only seen publicly when she would make the rare appearance to accept an award, which were complete with nothing more than a few lines of thanks upon winning. Such behavior sent critics straight into a frenzy of complaints. Many called her recluse, ingrateful, or rude, when in reality offending her fans and audience did not seem to be her intention. In reality, she was a private woman from Alabama who achieved national success and fame without meaning to, while simultaneously giving the world one of the most cherished books of all time.