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Tribute to Harper Lee: The Benefit of Rereading a Classic

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Tribute to Harper Lee: The Benefit of Rereading a Classic

Harper Lee was an incredibly influential author, though she only published two books.

Harper Lee was an incredibly influential author, though she only published two books.

Harper Lee was an incredibly influential author, though she only published two books.

Harper Lee was an incredibly influential author, though she only published two books.


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Harper Lee was an incredibly influential author, though she only published two books.

Harper Lee was an incredibly influential author, though she only published two books.

By Pat Costello

“You never really understand a person until you consider something from his point of view.” That line comes from the 1960 classic book To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee. The novel is considered one of the greatest and most influential books of all time, and is still read in schools all across the country to this day. The story is set in Alabama in the 1930s and focuses on a small family, the Finches, made up of a father, Atticus, and his son and daughter, Jem and Scout.

Atticus is a lawyer, and has been given a case in which he must defend an African-American man named Tom Robinson. Atticus is ridiculed by the community, causing backlash against his children and his own personal life. The story was immortalized in the 1962 movie of the same name, with Gregory Peck giving an Oscar winning performance as Atticus.

I am most likely not telling you anything you do not already know. I reread the book over the summer (for the fourth time) because I forget just how beautiful Harper Lee’s writing is. What makes the work so infatuating is her ability to paint a picture in your mind by giving the tiniest of details. Not many writers since Lee have been able to use imagery in the same manner as hers. Her ability to tie in themes of courage, class, race, identity and loss of innocence was something that nobody had ever seen before, and that we may well never see again. Since its publication, the book has sold over 40 million copies and is widely regarded as one of the most important books of the 20th century.

Many situations that occur in the story are relevant even now. Racial tensions are very high right now, but Lee reminds us and reassures us that there are good, caring people in the world. The novel stresses the beauty of the judicial system, but points out how unjust things can be as well. It teaches that compassion and understanding for everyone and everything should not be an afterthought, but the ultimate goal of one’s daily life. Lee was a visionary in her time and ours.

Sadly, Lee passed away late last week at the age of 89. She was reclusive for most of her life and kept a very tight circle around her in an attempt to avoid becoming a public figure. Her last interview came in 1964, when she spoke about the shocking success of her novel and how she never expected it to accrue such great success. Lee’s death is a time to remember that success, not mourn her loss.

I tell you this: reread To Kill a Mockingbird. Go find a copy at the library or online and read it from cover to cover. Enjoy every second of it. Become engulfed in the beautiful treachery that is Maycomb, Alabama. When you finish that, watch the movie and do the same thing. Harper Lee left us a message from the 60s. It is time we reread it and listen once more.

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Tribute to Harper Lee: The Benefit of Rereading a Classic