Archived Story

Professor dispels myths surrounding To Kill a Mockingbird

Published 10:24am Thursday, September 26, 2013

Citizens gathered at the Adeila M. Russell Library on Tuesday to hear an in-depth discussion of lore surrounding the Harper Lee classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Nancy Anderson, with the Alabama Humanities Foundation, led the talk. Anderson, who is an associate profession of English at Auburn University Montgomery, began with one myth which started as a typo.
In the Tuttle Dictionary of Dedications, which is a reference book with collections of dedications from various novels, it says Lee’s novel is dedicated to “Mr. Lee and Slice.” The real dedication should read “Alice,” the name of Lee’s sister.
“Not willing to deal with a typo, the editor added a comment that said ‘American author’s first popular novel, presumably deciated to her husband and child, the latter of which went by a nickname,” Anderson said. “Lee never married and had no children.”
The “Mr. Lee” mentioned was actually Lee’s father.
Anderson also discussed the everpresent rumor that Lee is actually dead, which Anderson said the writer has personally dispelled multiple times.
Myths regarding the true authorship of To Kill a Mockingbird are still floating around, Anderson said. Some people assert that Truman Capote was in fact the real author of the novel.
“Anyone who has read Truman Capote’s work and Harper Lee’s work couldn’t find the similarities in style if they wanted to,” Anderson said. “There is also a letter in the Monroe County Heritage Museum that dispels this rumor. The letter is from Capote to his cousin, and he mentions that ‘Nell is writing and novel, and it is going to be quite wonderful.’ He was taking no claim of authorship for (the novel).”
Myths surrounding the author also exist, with some believing that To Kill a Mockingbird was the only work Lee ever published. During the discussion, Anderson handed out a printed list of works attributed to Lee, with the most recent work being a letter she wrote for The Oprah Magazine in 2006.
Anderson added that there are also some misconceptions about Lee, as many have labeled her as a recluse.
“I don’t think recluse was ever a proper term, – she is a very private person and likes to keep her privacy,” Anderson said.
Anderson recalled a recent event that she attended in which Lee was also present. A camera flash lit up the room, and Lee quickly spun around and cornered the photographer, asking what he was doing.
“That isn’t a recluse, that is someone who doesn’t want her privacy messed with,” Anderson said.

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