Posted by: chartroose | March 17, 2008

Who Really Killed a Mockingbird?

**I wrote this in 2006 after seeing Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I’ve always wondered why Harper Lee never wrote another book after To Kill a Mockingbird.  Was this really all she had in her?  There have been rumors for quite awhile that Truman Capote was a ghostwriter for Ms. Lee because she was having trouble with her manuscript.  I find this a bit hard to believe because their writing styles were so different, but it’s fun to speculate that it could be true.  After all, Capote was an accomplished writer.  Why couldn’t he have changed his technique to suit the occassion?

Maybe Dill Harris was totally Truman Capote’s creation.  He wanted to be immortalized in the book, so he wrote Dill in.  When you think about it, Dill wasn’t totally essential to the plot of the novel.  He was a catalyst for Jem and Scout’s risk taking–events like sneaking up on the Radley porch and snooping during Tom Robinson’s arraignment, but Jem and Scout could easily have chosen to do those things on their own.  Perhaps Capote helped Ms. Lee complete her masterpiece by inserting Dill into some of the scenes she was struggling with.

Whatever the case, To Kill a Mockingbird is, in my humble opinion, one of the best novels ever written.  I don’t really care who wrote parts of it; I’m just glad it was published!

By the way, John Megna, who played Dill in the movie, died in 1995 of AIDS complications.  He was 42 years old.  



  1. I was just thinking about re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird! I read it twice in high school (read it on my own for fun during the summer and then found out later in the school year that it was assigned so I figure, what the hey). I skimmed the Harper Lee biography “Mockingbird” and I think the reason she never wrote another novel was because TKM was so successful that she didn’t have the free time to write anymore. Either that or she wrote the perfect book and there’s no need to write another. It’s her money ticket for life.
    Also, I really hope it’s not true that Capote ghostwrote TKM. That would suck. It’s like finding out that Shakespeare didn’t really write his plays.

  2. Well, T Y, I think that if Capote did help her, it was pretty minimal. I also agree that she could never have written anything better, so maybe that’s why she only wrote the single book.

  3. You’re right, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best novels ever written.

  4. It’s been ages since I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I should get my copy out and enjoy it all over again.

  5. Yes, Verbivore–it’s due for a reread from me as well. I think it has the best first paragraph of any novel I’ve ever read. I need to open it up just for that!

  6. Sorry, but how do you know that John Megna was homosexual?

  7. Well, Sarah, you got me! I assumed that John Megna was gay because he died of AIDS when he was 42, but I can find no evidence to support this. I know that he was part of the L. A. AIDS project in the early ’90’s before he died, but unless I can find some kind of open admission of homosexuality, it’s all supposition. So, I’m going to change this post. The last thing I want to do is slander a decent person who can no longer defend himself.

  8. I agree — To Kill a Mockingbird is one of THE best novels ever written. All of it’s messages are important, and the novel itself is just awe-inspiring. One of my favorite books, if not THE favorite. And I read a lot.

  9. chartroose, calling someone gay (even erroneously) is not slanderous… nor is being gay indecent.

  10. I know John was gay!
    He had a butt like a cave!
    And he was American.

  11. You actually really never know how he got Aids the homosexuals were only the first ones to get aids. Aids is a world wide disease that effects both male and female in the United states. And why do you know about his butt in the first place. Thats a pretty bad assumption.

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