Honoring Harper Lee and her literary legacy

Jada Hallman, Staff Reporter

Nelle Harper Lee, an American novelist who has left a prominent impact on society through the way her writing addresses racial tensions and tests stereotypical prejudices, has bounded a successful and respected ambience to her name. However, Lee passed away February 19 due to natural causes.

Hank Connor, Lee’s nephew, told the media that Lee died in her sleep in Monroeville, Alabama at The Meadows, the assisted living facility where she peacefully dwelt. She was 89 years old.

Lee’s greatly successful first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, sold more than 40 million copies and is remembered as immensely influential and heartwarming. Taking place in a small Alabama town, the novel tells the story of a young girl, Jean Louise Finch, navigating through a tense and stifling community during the Great Depression while also observing different social issues and racial inequality.

Lee continued on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 and the Quill Award for Audiobook in 2007. Along with the major accomplishments she’s earned, Lee has prevailed in transforming the American culture into a more kind and accepting atmosphere. Art teacher Alex Nelson felt that after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, the need to be less judging and more loving has stuck with him for many years. “I remember it being really easy to read,” said Nelson. “The overall message about race and prejudices really taught me to not judge others.” Nelson also formerly played bass guitar and was an occasional singer in a band named after his dog, Dill, who’s also a character from To Kill a Mockingbird, his wife’s favorite novel.

Harper Lee is remembered as a quiet and publicity-shy woman who made a home with her close friends and family in Alabama. “She controlled what world she wanted to live in,” said Joy Brown speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a close friend of Lee who resided in New York.

With so many recent rumors and tensions placing heavy pressures on certain occupations, races, religions and cultures, it is key to acknowledge the struggles Lee has so beautifully written about, the struggles that we have endured as a country, so that we can promise a safe and loving community to all.

Lee’s passing allows for a time to contemplate and reflect upon her moralistic works and the valuable lessons they tell. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” said Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird, “Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”