Lee, Harper: 1926 - 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960 - Title


  • Harper Lee gives the following information about a mockingbird:
    "Attacus says to Jem, '..., but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'
    Were upon Miss Maudie explains, 'Your father's right,' she said. 'Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill mockingbirds.'

    Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird, Mandarin, London, 1997, p.99

  • As a child Harper Lee spent most of her free time together with her friends Truman Capote and Jennings Faulk Carter.
    The children Harper (Nelle) Lee, Truman Capote and Jennings Faulk Carter could use a swimming pool. They let other children use it too but charged them a nickel. Jennings Faulk Carter remembers:
    "'Nelle, you take down their names (the children's) and get their nickels,' Truman said. Truman handed Nelle the small pocket notebook. As the children approached, they handed Nelle their nickels and she wrote down their names in the notebook. Then and only then could they jump into the pool. By mid-afternoon the pool was full of children. Truman sat on the side of the pool wall, pulled the blackboard on its stand, and started talking. The fact that he was lecturing wasn't unusual, because he often did that. He called it "teaching school." Nelle and I liked to play school with Truman, even though we were usually the students and he was the teacher with a lot to say on numerous subjects. But today was different because Truman wasn't just talking. He had Nelle's blackboard and chalk and was sketching and writing on the board as he talked rather seriously. Because it was late in the summer the children knew they had only a few days left of vacation. They probably wished Truman would just shut up about school and let them get on with their playing, but he was going on and on about it being sinful to kill mockingbirds.
    Boss had heard just about enough. He yelled out from the pool, 'And why is it a sin to kill a dumb mockingbird?'
    In his sincerest, deepest professor's voice Truman said, 'Because they eat little colored babies' eyes out.'
    Boss quit splashing. Quiet settled over the pool. Boss glared at Truman with a dumbstruck look on his face. 'So?' he said.
    Without cracking so much as a hint of a smile, Truman continued. 'With their eyes gone they can't find their mother's nongies, they'll starve to death. So mockingbirds keep down the colored population.'"

    Marianne M. Moates: Truman Capote's Southern Years, New York,1989
    Order the book from Amazon (UK, USA)