America is the proud author of many timeless novels. Fitzegerald’s The Great Gatsby, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men all reveal a glimpse into previously unseen worlds to their audiences. But few of them has so profound an impact as Nelle “Harper” Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. This captivating novel enthralled the country and made it reexamine its preexisting perceptions about childhood, bravery, and morality. In spite of the importance of these concepts, the most far-reaching theme is how prejudice and education coincide, or, more accurately, how prejudice and a lack of education coincide (Theme 1). In To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee explores how a normally rational person’s ability to reason can be tainted by prejudice, even subconsciously. Rarely do the characters in Lee’s novel make an effort to be cruel, but in the 1930s South, prejudice was less about an active effort to hurt others, but instead was an affliction brought about by an unconscious combination of upbringing, culture, and social or economic status.
In a fashion typical for commercial and literary authors alike, Lee did not blatantly state her observations. An author’s writing is more than ink on paper, so authors like Lee use writing as an advocate for their convictions or to explore the extent of human beliefs. Lee calls on her own childhood experiences to provide both background and inspiration for her writing. The discoveries of her youth influence the primary theme of her only novel because living in Southern Alabama in the 1930s showed her that while there are no absolutes when is comes to morality human reasoning, there are patterns that the people of her early childhood followed (Madden 12). Not only did her early life influence her writing, it provided an endless pool from which Lee could pull characters, settings, and events to provide depth and meaning to her novel.
When the audience compares Lee’s youth to the adolescence of Scout Finch, the primary character in To Kill a Mockingbird, the similarities go beyond a subconscious act of re-imaging the faces of her youth. Both Lee and Scout were born in a small town in southern Alabama, with all of the dirt roads, Southern ladies, and prejudice that a stereotype would entail. Nelle “Harper” Lee was born on April 28, 1926, to Amasa Coleman “A.C.” Lee and Francis Finch Lee. Lee’s father draws remarkable comparisons with Scout’s father, Atticus Finch. Both men had similar approaches to child rearing. They spoke to children like the children were adults and fully capable of advanced thought and opinion (Shields 19). The criminal case in To Kill a Mockingbird, on the other hand, is similar to the only criminal case A.C. ever defended. In this case, he defended two black men accused of murdering a black man; both men were hung upon conviction (Shields 9).
Another case that influenced To Kill a Mockingbird was a case that, though her father was not directly involved, still shaped her opinion on...