Seeds: July of 1960 saw the publication of arguably the greatest contribution to American fiction of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird. The debut of author Harper Lee solidified her place in American literary history for its controversial content and true-to-fact portrayal of lingering prejudice in the South. However, in spite of her popularity, Lee, who had no desire for media attention and fame, became somewhat of a recluse, and published only one other work, Go Set a Watchman, an earlier version of Mockingbird shrouded in controversy, in 2015.
Core: Today, February 19, it was announced that the beloved Harper Lee passed away in her sleep at the age of 89. Her family has announced that they will be holding a private ceremony, in line with Lee’s absence from the public eye.
Skin: The media has taken this opportunity to indulge themselves in the rich stories of this great woman’s life. Her death has had an extremely personal effect on many due to the wide circulation of Lee’s most popular novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in almost every high school across the country. Thousands of people seem to have a strong connection to Lee’s work, making her death that much more heartbreaking.
Leaves: In the grander scheme of things, Lee’s death does not mean much. The world will not stop turning, and most of us will move on with our lives without a second thought to her. However, her far-reaching impact will continue to affect our lives in ways that we are both aware and unaware of: personal connections to her work, Mockingbird’s influence on modern literature and our society’s evolving attitude towards race and socioeconomic status, subconscious comparisons to the best hero of modern cinema, or future nostalgia as later generations grapple with Mockingbird just as many of us did. If nothing else, Lee’s death reminds us of our own mortality – that everything must come to an end – and while this may seem like a frightening thought to many, it encourages us to attempt to craft a legacy as strong as Lee’s and to create something that will impact and inspire others long after our own demise.
Food For Thought: How has Lee’s death impacted you? How, if at all, did To Kill a Mockingbird affect you or your perception of the world? Why has Lee’s work stayed with so many people for so long? Tell us what you think.
Think we missed something? Tell us in the comments.