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Reading Harper Lee: Understanding To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman
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chapter one Harper Lee: Life of a Writer Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, was known to her oldest friends and family as Nelle (pronounced as one syllable) and to many of her professional friends, like Gregory Peck, as Harper. Her decision to drop “Nelle” in her writing name was her fear that it would be mispronounced as “Nellie.” Nelle Harper’s Parents Her personal story starts with her parents, whose ancestors had roots in Virginia and South Carolina but ended up in rural Alabama, in the general vicinity of Monroeville, her home town. Her mother, Frances Cunningham Finch, who does not appear in either novel as a character, was born in 1891 and received an education at Montevallo, then a small college for women in Alabama. She had four children, and died in 1951, when Nelle Harper was 25. The consensus of opinion is Frances suffered from physical and nervous ailments for most of her life. Atticus Finch, a main character in both novels, is clearly based on her father, Amasa Coleman Lee. (At one time a title of the manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird was “Atticus.”) A.C., as he was generally referred to as an adult, was born in 1880. He and Frances were married in 1910. He became a member of the bar in 1915, after having worked in the field of law for some years, though he had little interest in arguing criminal cases in court. He became a partner in a Monroeville law firm, Barnett, Bugg, and Lee, which proved to be highly successful and which his eldest daughter Alice would join as an adult. A.C. was elected to the Alabama