Harper Lee

Lee, Harper (Nelle Harper Lee), 1926–, American novelist, b. Monroeville, Ala. A member of an old Southern family and related to Robert E. Lee, she was a lifelong friend of Truman Capote. Lee attended Huntington College (1944–45) and the Univ. of Alabama (1945–49) but left for New York City to pursue a writer's life. After writing several essays and short stories, she expanded one story into the novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), which was a best seller, won the Pulitzer Prize, was made (1962) into a popular film, and subsequently became one of the most widely read works of American fiction in the second half of the 20th cent. Mockingbird, which was Lee's only novel, is the story of small-town Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch's noble but unsuccessful legal defense of an African-American man falsely accused of raping a white woman. It also depicts the coming-of-age of Finch's young daughter, Scout, the book's semiautobiographical narrator, and of her brother Jem, and portrays the triumph of justice and tolerance. A private, reclusive person, Lee has lived quietly in Monroeville and New York since the mid-1960s.

See biography by C. J. Shields (2006); studies by J. Milton (1984), C. D. Johnson (1994), T. O'Neill (2000), C. Bernard (2003), B. Giddens-White (2006), L. Ellsworth (2007), A. H. Petry, ed. (2007), and C. Mancini (2008).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies


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