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The Basic Structures Essay

1474 words - 6 pages

Harper Lee and Truman Capote, two of the greatest 20th century authors, were once prodigious best friends. And best friends share everything; their thoughts, their dreams, but most importantly, their ideas. So could it be possible that Capote, a prolific writer, could have played a role in writing Lee’s esteemed novel, To Kill a Mockingbird? Doubtful. Through comparisons of Lee’s only work to Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” it can be seen that despite similarities, these friends’ works differ too greatly in the way they set the tone, emphasize their themes, and utilize imagery for them to have worked together on her novel.
The first area, where Capote and Lee vary, is their use of style to create tone. Due to two extremely diverse plotlines, the tones themselves contrast with one being lighthearted and dreamy, the other worried and critical. However, both have a sense of nostalgia coupled with a childlike simplicity. Their stylistic distinctions stem directly from different tense. While To Kill a Mockingbird is in the past tense, “A Christmas Memory” is in the present. This is important because both are told as flashbacks in first person from the older narrator. Capote’s present tense recollection immerses the reader as if it is being relived. The very way he starts the story is by laying out the scene: “Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago” (p.145). By using the word ‘imagine’ the scene is conveyed as pensive and dreamy. The true nostalgia strikes most powerfully at the end, when the narrator looks back at what he has lost. Lee tells her story a different way. Her entire novel is based on an adult reflecting on a previous experience. The way she thought, the way she acted; it’s all in past tense. Compared to “A Christmas Memory”, the tone is developed further through the actions and dialogue of the characters as opposed to mostly just description and thoughts from the narrator. Because it is in past tense, the narrator doesn’t end up describing every change contributing to a more direct expression. For example, “Atticus was silent. /‘Atticus?’ said Jem. /‘Yes?’ /‘Nothin’’” (p.97). This is the scene where the children learn their father, whom they believe to have no physical skills, is the best shot in town after shooting a rabid dog. There is no direct interpretation from the narrator leaving readers with only the characters’ dialogue to ponder. The effect is a speechless tone. While one author interacts with the text as the author, setting up each scene and action, the other only interacts as a character and this can be directly attributed to which tense they write. So despite similar overlying tones and point of views, Capote and Lee diverge immediately in style.
As most authors do, both Lee and Capote wound similar themes and subthemes throughout their pieces, yet use completely different techniques to isolate these themes. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme is stated multiple times,...

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