Monday 24 August 2015

Mockingbird's Dill Harris Based on Truman Capote

"Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Harper Lee's mother and father, lived very near.  Harper Lee was my best friend...I'm a character in her book, which takes place in the same small town in Alabama where we lived.  Her father was a lawyer and she and I used to go to trials all the time.  We went to trials instead of going to the movies." (Truman Capote)

When I first read To Kill a Mockingbird to my Grade 10 class in Windsor, the image of Scout and Dill timidly approaching the recluse Bo Radley's house stuck in my head.  The image of Scout and Dill peeking their heads over the courthouse balcony as they watched Scout's dad defend a black man accused of rape lingered in my memory.  

In the 1920's and early 1930's, Harper Lee and Truman Capote were next door neighbours.  They developped a close relationship, spending long afternoons together.  Lee used to sneak into her lawyer father's study and sat at his typewriter as Capote dictated wildly imaginative stories.  Lee and Capote used to attend Mr. Lee's trials, the way other kids would go to the movies.   

Another pastime the friends shared was "the killing of mockingbirds", mentioned in a letter to a friend in 1955, seven years before the publication of the famous book.  The two were what Anne of Green Gables would call "kindred spirits".  Capote moved to New York; Lee later followed.  Both became writers.  Both became recluses later in life.  While Capote was a prolific writer, Lee only published one book in her lifetime (Go Set a Watchman came out posthumously).  Capote is immortalized in Lee's classic novel, a testament to a lasting friendship.

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