You don’t live life in the Deep South as she did, watching its evolution through nearly 90 years without taking something of great depth and value from those times. Women had just won the right to vote a mere six years before her birth, and perhaps even that had made an impact on her.
Harper Lee came to the attention of publishers and the American public in 1960, when she was 34. Her book, To Kill A Mockingbird, had just entered the literary scene, and reviews were glowing. How many people beyond Harper Lee even knew a second book existed may be anyone’s guess. But Go Set A Watchman had originally been intended as the first book with …Mockingbird as its sequel. Another 54 years passed before …Watchman was finally published as the “lost novel” that suddenly appeared in 2015. Meanwhile, …Mockingbird had the distinction of winning a Pulitzer Prize, as well it should have. Both books, however, commanded–and still command–our attention.
In 1964, she said she had wanted to be the “Jane Austen of south Alabama.” Of her books about life in the South, she said, “I would like . . . to do one thing, and I’ve never spoken much about it because it’s such a personal thing. I would like to leave some record of the kind of life that existed in a very small world. I hope to do this in several novels” because, she said, “something universal [existed] in this little world, something decent to be said for it, and something to lament in its passing.”
Harper Lee’s natal chart offers a Western, 2nd quadrant below-the-horizon dominance. As I look at this chart and think of 8-year-old Scout’s narrative voice in …Mockingbird, I suspect Scout might have been the voice she had in her childhood.
It’s a bit ironic, you know: She had the ability to be playful and charming in the narative itself–until it came to this child’s more mature approach to the story. I suspect it might have come from that below-the-horizon dominance since she was probably far more private than many might have realized. Although her having preferred to be out of the spotlight was easy to speculate, this effort to remain in the background might have come from her preference for her work with Mercury in the 6th and even her Venus-Uranus conjunction in the 5th house where she could edit as she wanted and needed to. The fifth house is the place for one’s literary abilities from writing to editing, and with Pluto in the 9th house at apex of the chart, it would make sense that she preferred to focus on that editing before she handed it to the powers that be.
Take note of her Moon-Saturn conjunction in Scorpio. While they’re rising, they’re actually in the 2nd house because they’re within orb of the 2nd. And then there’s the 27-minute partile conjunction of the Sun to her Part of Fortune. I seem to recall that she was also an English teacher, so all she did–from her writing to the teaching–would have been evolving around this world of English and literature. Her Venus in Pisces, where it’s considered exalted, rules the Sun and the Part of Fortune. Venus also rules the chart.
While her world in Monroeville might have been a small one, this was the world she knew and apparently wanted to know. As I think about this sentence, I’m reminded of her presence in the Deep South and wonder whether she had ever been interviewed by Southern Living magazine. From the mint juleps of summertime to the charm of what’s considered Southern hospitality–something my family and I had the pleasure of knowing from two states, I don’t need to stretch my thoughts far to see how this might have appealed to her as the universality and “something decent to be said for it” as she noted in her 1964 interview.
That Mars-Jupiter conjunction intercepted in the 4th house opposes Neptune, also intercepted of course, in the 10th house and forms a fixed T-square to her Moon-Saturn conjunction. She absorbed everything around her–and while she was a conservative (Jupiter-Saturn square), she was likely to have made firm decisions to the point that even if she had been unsure about such decisions, she probably would have stuck to them. The heartbeat of her chart through the mutual reception of her Moon and Pluto and the rest of the chart fell into what might be called a sheer literary genius pattern through the Sun, Venus and Neptune. It seems to me that she would have had the inspiration and the love of the story. Once that was in place, she could written nonstop for days because it was easy after she was emotionally committed.
And then, of course, the undecaquartisextiles offer some intriguing points of interest, but so does something else I spotted: For those who work with Centaurs and asteroids, Pallas conjuncts Pluto in the 9th house at 14 Cancer 43 with an orb of roughly 1°55. Pallas in Cancer points to emotional concerns, and certainly this is what Lee did best: She wrote what she knew, traditional teaching from the master herself. She considered the moral dilemma of the Southern white in an age when segregation and bigotry were part of the fabric of life there, and she wrote it with passion and vigor perhaps in hopes of trying to resolve some of the issues. I’ll most definitely give a nod of respect to those who follow Pallas as the goddess of wisdom and useful arts. Certainly such understandings from this kind of placement shine through in the conjunction to Pluto where she could grapple with and battle those who would oppose her while retaining her Southern grace and gentility.
Although her chart showed six undecaquartisextiles (UQSXT), four of them hover around the 3° and 4° unimpressive orbs in light of the presence of two others that catch my eye far more quickly–one of which is a conjunction: The Sun-Part of Fortune (PoF) conjunction forms an UQSXT to Saturn, respectively with 1°02 and 1°29 of orb. The other one–Mercury to the Ascendant (ASC)–forms a 12-minute partile UQSXT while Mercury forms a semi-sextile to the Sun-PoF conjunction, the midpoint of which falls at 24 Aries 27 in a 1°20 minute orb of opposition to the ASC, forming the Blooming UQSXT! Whether or not Harper Lee actually craved the recognition in the midst of her quieter, less in-your-face lifestyle preferences, she wanted her voice heard, and that it was!
Sixth house Mercury also squares Pluto in the 9th house, offering her both the mental acuity and energy to cover every angle she wanted to, and she did it powerfully by making sure she worked with historic accuracy. Reviews of Go Set A Watchman also were glowing in what the New York Times said gave Atticus Finch a “dark side.” But then Atticus knew the unspoken rules quite clearly since he too had lived in the area and was concerned about his children at the same time. I loved the take Michiko Kakutani had on the book.
I’ve stepped away in several ways from my usual obit-style writing of these kinds of farewells, but then Harper Lee wasn’t the usual kind of person. She was courageous for speaking her truths when she did; she was focused and a role model for writing what she saw.
But perhaps a speaker in the “Beyond To Kill A Mockingbird” video said it best–and most honestly: “She wrote the book that explained us to ourselves, and she wrote a beautiful story.”