The Mockingbird Loses Its Voice | Verve Magazine
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February 20, 2016

The Mockingbird Loses Its Voice

Compiled by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

Words to remember her by… a tribute to Harper Lee

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee passed away on February 19, 2016.

Harper Lee’s literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg, said,Knowing Nelle these past few years has been not just an utter delight but an extraordinary privilege. When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever.  She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history.  We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity.”

Verve pays a tribute to the creator of To Kill a Mockingbird by remembering a few of her most memorable lines….

“It’s better to be silent than to be a fool.” — Alabama Academy of Honor ‘speech’ 2007

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”—To Kill a Mockingbird

“We’re paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.”—To Kill a Mockingbird

“You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fightin’ with your head for a change.”To Kill a Mockingbird

“Don’t you study about other folks’ business till you take care of your own.”—Go Set a Watchman

“Things are always better in the morning.”—To Kill a Mockingbird

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”—To Kill a Mockingbird

“Naturally, you don’t sit down in ‘white hot inspiration’ and write with a burning flame in front of you. But since I knew I could never be happy being anything but a writer, and Mockingbird put itself together for me so accommodatingly, I kept at it because I knew it had to be my first novel, for better or for worse.” — From an interview with Roy Newquist, Counterpoints, 1964

“Books were scarce. There was nothing you could call a public library, we were a hundred miles away from a department store’s books section, so we children began to circulate reading material among ourselves until each child had read another’s entire stock. There were long dry spells broken by the new Christmas books, which started the rounds again.” —From a letter to Oprah Winfrey, 2006

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.”—To Kill a Mockingbird

“Everybody’s gotta learn, nobody’s born knowing.”—Go Set a Watchman

“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”—To Kill a Mockingbird

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”—Go Set a Watchman

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird…. 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 a mockingbird.” —To Kill a Mockingbird


·      Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926. ‘Nelle’ was her grandmother’s name spelled backwards.

·      She grew up in the small southwestern Alabama town of Monroeville.

·      As a child, Lee was known to be a tomboy, a voracious and precocious reader. It is said that her friendship with the young Truman Capote sowed the seeds of the character Dill in the novel that made her famous To Kill a Mockingbird.

·      Her father was a former newspaper editor and proprietor, and a lawyer.

·      When she was just five, Alabama witnessed the trials of nine coloured men, accused of the purported rapes of two white women. Denied a lawyer until the first day of the trial, and despite strong evidence to the contrary, they were found guilty. All, but one, a 12-year-old boy, were sentenced to death. Subsequent trials – spread over six years – saw most of the convictions repealed. And, all but one, were freed or paroled. This trial, as is seen in her later award-winning work, left a great impact on young Lee’s mind.

·      Published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird, won the Pulitzer Prize. It was made into a successful film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 1962.  Of the movie, Lee said, ‘I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.’

·      In 2007, George W. Bush presented Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the United States for having made ‘an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours’.

·      In 2010, yet another honour came her way. President Barack Obama bestowed on the author the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the United States government for ‘outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts’.

·      Her second work, Go Set A Watchman, was published years later in 2015.

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