Harper Lee’s Friendship with Truman Capote 🤝

Two childhood friends, both of whom became renowned writers as adults is a remarkable phenomenon, and that is the case of Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

Harper Lee

American Novelist (1926-2016)

Harper Lee(1926-2016) and her childhood friend Truman Capote(1924-1984) both became great writers as adults. Their friendship is a remarkable one as they played significant roles in each other’s respective writing careers.

Harper Lee and Truman Capote’s Childhood Friendship

Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama where she lived with her family in a nice residential area of the town. Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, Louisiana but was sent to live with his mother’s relatives in Monroeville, Alabama in 1924 because of his parent’s divorce.

At Monroeville, Harper Lee and Truman Capote became friends as they were neighbors and close in age. Truman lived in Monroeville for the next five years during which the bond of their friendship grew stronger. However, in 1934, Truman left Monroeville and moved to New York City permanently, only visiting Monroeville every summer.

Later in life, Truman described this childhood friendship in an interview with Lawrence Grobel thus: ”Mr and Mrs Lee, Harper Lee’s mother and father, lived very near. Did you ever read her book To Kill a Mockingbird? I’m a character in that 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 as children. We went to trials instead of going to the movies.”

Literary Influences

Truman Capote began writing at an early age, beginning with short stories as a teenager and publishing his first full-length novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1948. Memories of Harper Lee as a child inspired a character in Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Harper Lee’s literary career began much later. Lee moved to New York City in 1949, reportedly on Capote’s prompting, to begin a professional writing career. In 1960, Lee published her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and also based a character in it on the child version of Truman Capote.

In 1959, when Harper Lee’s first novel was still in the publication process, Lee traveled with Capote to a rural town in Kansas to help Capote carry out research on the mysterious massacre of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. Lee’s simplicity of style and manners enabled her to make inroads into the community in cases where Capote’s sophisticated dressing style alienated him from the people.

The research yielded results, and in 1966, Truman Capote published what he called a ”non-fiction novel” based on their findings. The book was titled In Cold Blood and brought Capote much acclaim from the literary community. However, the publication of the book caused a rift in Lee and Capote’s friendship because Capote failed to credit Lee for her contributions to the research of the book even though Lee was mentioned in the dedication along with Capote’s partner Jack Dunphy.

Fictional Portrayals of Harper Lee and Truman Capote

The character Charles Baker ”Dill” Harris in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was based on Truman Capote as a child. Dill was a diminutive boy with an active imagination who played with the young character Scout, and her brother Jem.

In Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms, the tomboy child Idabel Thompkins was based on Harper Lee as a child.

In the 2005 film Capote, a biographical drama about the years Truman Capote spent researching and writing the book In Cold Blood, Truman Capote was played by the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman while Harper Lee was played by Catherine Keener. Keener won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.

In another film, Infamous, a 2006 film adaptation of Truman Capote’s biography, Toby Jones played Truman Capote while Sandra Bullock starred as Harper Lee.


Did Harper Lee write a second novel?

Harper Lee’s second novel was published in 2015. It was titled Go Set A Watchman and is a sequel to Lee’s first novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It follows Scout changed perspective of her family and events around her as a twenty-six-year-old young lady.
However, Go Set a Watchman is actually an earlier draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Why did Harper Lee stop writing?

In 2011, Rev Dr. Thomas Lane Butt, who was an acquaintance of Harper Lee, claimed Lee gave reasons why she never wrote: ”Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill A Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.”

Harper Lee was a private person and probably was deterred from writing more books by the publicity she got from the release of her first novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Why did Truman Capote stop writing?

After his 1966 book In Cold Blood Truman Capote stopped writing. Sources say that he was saddened by his inability to win any major awards for his previous books and for that stopped writing.

Is In Cold Blood a true story?

Yes, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is a true story about a family in Holcomb, Kansas that were mysteriously massacred. The culprits of the massacre were eventually arrested and executed by the authorities. Truman got interested in the incident from reading about it in a paper article.

What was Truman Capote’s IQ?

Truman Capote himself claimed he had an IQ of 215. But there are no further sources to confirm the accuracy of his claim.

Onyekachi Osuji
About Onyekachi Osuji
Onyekachi is a lecturer of Public Administration and a Literature enthusiast. After gaining accreditation in English Literature, Onyeka analyzes novels on Book Analysis, whilst working as an academic and writing short stories.
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