Harper Lee ' was born at Monroeville, Alabama, in 1927. She attended the local public schools end the University of Alabama, where she studied law. For the past several years she has lived in New York.
To Kill a Mockingbird («Убити пересмішника»), I960, is the first novel of Harper Lee that brought her fame not only in her own country, the USA, but abroad as well. The action of the novel takes place in the late thirties, in Alabama. The title of the novel is symbolic. In many a Southern state the mockingbird, a merry songbird, symbolizes innocence and its killing is considered a sin and a moral crime.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
The story is told by Jean Louise Finch who remembers her child-hood when she lived with her father Atticus Finch, who was the lawyer, her elder brother Jem and the Negro cook Calpurnia. Jean Louise was a very clever little girl, kind and active.
I had to start to school in a week. I never waited more for anything in my life. Jem took me to school the first day. When we were walking Jem told me that during school hours I had to be with the first grade and he would be with the fifth. In short I had to leave him alone. "We will do like we always do at home," he said, "but you'll see — school's different."
And it was different. Miss Caroline Fisher, our teacher, was no more than twenty-one. She began the day by reading us a story about cats. 'The cats had long conversations with one another, they lived in a warm house under a kitchen floor. Miss Caroline came to the end of the story and said, "Wasn't that nice?"
Then she went to the blackboard, wrote the alphabet in big letters, turned to the class and asked, "Does anyboknow what these are?" Everybody did, but she chose me. Ї read the alphabet and she made me read most of my First Reader. Then she told me to tell my father not to teach me any more. "He hasn't taught me anything, Miss Caroline. Atticus hasn't got time to teach me anything," I said.
"Everybody who goes home to lunch hold up your hands," said Miss Caroline. The town children did so, and she looked us over.
"Everybody who brings his lunch put it on the desk." Miss Caroline walked up to Walter Cunningham's desk. "Where is your lunch?" she asked. "Did you forget it this morning?" Saying that, Miss Caroline went to her desk. "Here is some money," she said to Walter. "Go and eat in town today. You can pay meback tomorrow." Walter shook his head.
"No, thank you ma'am '."
"Here Walter, come get it."
Walter shook his head again. I wanted to help him.
"Miss Caroline, he's one of the Cunninghams," I said.
"What, Jean Louise?"
We all understood it. He didn't forget his lunch, he just didn't have any. He had none today, nor would he have any tomorrow or the next day.
"You'll get to know 3 all the country folk after a while. The Cunninghams never took anything they can't pay back, they live on what they have. They don't have much, but they live on it. Walter hasn't got money to bring you."
"Jean Louise, I've had enough of you this morning," said Miss Caroline. "You're starting off on the wrong foot in every way 4, my dear," and she told me to stand in the corner. I didn't stand long there, for the bell rang, and Miss Caroline watched the class go for lunch. As I was the last to leave, I saw her fall into her chair 5 and put her head in her arms. Had she been more friendly towards me, I would have felt sorry for her 6. She was a handsome little thing.
* * *
The second grade was no better than the first, but Jem told me that the older I got the better school would be, that he started off the same way, and it was only in the six grade that he learned anything interesting. The sixth grade pleased him from the beginning: he went through a short Egyptian Period and tried to walk putting one arm in front of him and one in back, putting one foot behind the other. He said that the Egyptians walked this way. I said if they did I didn't see how they got anything done, but Jem said they did more than the Americans ever did, they invented toilet paper and perpetual embalm
* * *
Jem and I met Christmas with mixed feeling.