Harper Lee is known for a single book. Her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published when the author was thirty-four. It won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1961 and was made into a film for which Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor. For decades, the novel has been considered a classic text in the study of prejudice. For years, Lee described herself as working on a second novel, but it did not appear. Perhaps Lee felt that in To Kill a Mockingbird she had explored so completely the problems of prejudice and identity that she could not better her effort.
Ironically, from the time of her birth Harper Lee had the best that such a society could offer. Her parents, Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Finch Lee, were both members of old, highly respected Southern families. After settling in Monroeville, Alabama, Amasa Coleman Lee became a community leader, a state legislator, and a newspaper editor. As a practicing attorney, he was no stranger to controversy. Watching him from her vantage point in the courthouse balcony, Lee learned to think for herself and to stand up for what she believed.
Although she was a female member of a patriarchal society, Lee did not assume the role of wife and mother, like most girls of her generation, or become a lawyer, as her father intended. It was not Harper, but her sister Alice, who was to become their father’s law partner. Six months short of graduation, Harper Lee left law...
(The entire section is 429 words.)