As with every celebrity’s passing, Facebook and Twitter lit up with nostalgia and sadness last week after hearing the news of Harper Lee’s death.
She was the author of the wildly successful fiction novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but largely avoided the spotlight and led a quiet and private life. Most of her time was spent in the small town of Monroeville, Alabama. Lee embraced her quiet and private life to the extent that she had expressed that she wanted to be buried before anyone knew she had passed away. She died in her sleep at the age of 89.
Personally, I dreaded seeing this book come up in my high school English course syllabi. I had heard the story of Atticus Finch and Scout a thousand times. Don’t even get me started on the black and white film I ashamedly admit to falling asleep to.
But looking back on ‘TKAM,’ as my senior high classmates referred to it as, I understand why it is revered as a classic. It sets a standard that nearly every fiction novel I’ve read has since followed. The moral lessons emphasizing acceptingness and loving others are simply invaluable to society. They are lessons that I hope my future children or grandchildren someday learn. I hope they will learn these lessons, even if it means putting up with a piece of classic American literature they’ll initially hate but grow to appreciate as I have done.
Admittedly, I haven’t gone back and reread “To Kill A Mocking Bird” since I was in my sophomore year of high school. Yet this famous story continues to come up in many of my English, history and even journalism classes for its quality as a piece of literature and an idealistic example integrity and ethics.
We can take solace in the loss of such an influential writer with exactly how humble she remained through what could have been an immense amount of fame. She could have lived a conspicuously luxurious life and written several books following, but she didn’t. Her first book has sold an estimated 30 million copies — no number to sneeze at.
I hated reading this book, but I am so thankful that I did. It improved my character and in my opinion, encouraged society to embrace those morals that Atticus and Scout ingrained in us.