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Lee, (Nelle) Harper

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Summary Article: Lee, (Nelle) Harper (1926– ) from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US writer. Her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), became a literary sensation, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and became an enduring classic. The film version, made in 1962, won three Academy Awards. Lee worked as a consultant on the screenplay adaptation of the novel.

Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. As a young child she was deeply affected by the court case in the nearby town of Scottsboro, in which nine young black men were falsely accused of raping two white women, and she loosely based the trial in her book on this event. She attended Huntington College (1944–45), studied law at the University of Alabama (1945–49), and attended Oxford University, England, for one year. She was an airline reservation clerk in New York City during the 1950s before returning to Monroeville. Although she published no other work of fiction, her novel continues to have a strong impact on successive generations of readers.

In 1959 Lee and her friend the writer Truman Capote travelled to Garden City, Kansas, to research the Clutter family murders for his work, In Cold Blood (1965). Capote dedicated In Cold Blood to Lee and his partner Jack Dunphy. Lee was the inspiration for the character Isabel in Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). He in turn clearly influenced her character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The novel centres on Scout, the young, tomboyish daughter of small-town Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch. Scout and her brother Jem learn, through the example of their father, the importance of fighting prejudice and upholding human dignity.

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