The banter at the dinner table usually consists of answers to the cliched question, “How was your day”? Today, however, I wanted to talk about news that disturbed me. I just said, “Harper Lee is dead”, sheepishly. I still didn’t believe it as I was saying it at the table. The responses to my statement appalled me further. No one in my family knew who Harper Lee was, nor did they care. The whole thing left me feeling unsettled. One of the most influential and powerful women of her time just passed on at 89 years old, and no one cared to know about her. She wasn’t the King of Rock like Michael Jackson, or an iconic entertainment figure like David Bowie, she was a fantastic writer and activist.
Nell Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, which rocked the boat in the year 1960 when it was published. At this time, racism ran rampantly throughout the United States. Her story features an innocent black man convicted of rape solely for his race, which caused white Americans to face an uncovered elephant in the room. Harper Lee created the perfect environment for the African-American Civil Rights Movement to be successful: she angered the racists, making them vulnerable to defeat.
I read her masterpiece last year, as a freshman. Atticus Finch was my favorite character because of his intelligence, wisdom, and ability to keep a level head. I didn’t relate to Scout very much at the beginning of the novel because she was more like an annoying little sister to me; by the end her character became more complex. I understood the confusion she felt towards life. I also loved her acceptance towards everyone. She didn’t let her loss of innocence deter her ability to have a friendship with Boo Radley. I felt bad for Jem whenever his father lost the case. He knew it was wrong, and that angered him on so many levels. He showed readers that there is always hope to be found in the next generation. There is so much that can be learned from To Kill a Mockingbird.
I’ve never experienced the death of a role model. When the celebrities I mentioned above died, I didn’t understand why people were so upset with it. As sad as it was, it was just another sad story on the news. I had a personal connection with Harper Lee during the time I read her novel. I thought it was so amazing that the woman who gave me this experience was still alive at the time, and I felt like she was there in a way. I’m still upset as I think about how unfortunate a loss as great as Harper Lee is. I’m afraid she will be forgotten in time, along with her message. For that reason, I will make sure the message still lives on past my generation in her memory.
Rest in peace, Harper Lee.