Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the New York Times. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:February 19, 1917
Date of Death:November 29, 1967
Place of Birth:Columbus, Georgia
Place of Death:Nyack, New York
Education:Columbia University and New York University, 1935
Read an Excerpt
1 In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together. Early every morning they would come out from the house where they lived and walk arm in arm down the street to work. The two friends were very different. The one who always steered the way was an obese and dreamy Greek. In the summer he would come out wearing a yellow or green polo shirt stuffed sloppily into his trousers in front and hanging loose behind. When it was colder he wore over this a shapeless gray sweater. His face was round and oily, with half-closed eyelids and lips that curved in a gentle, stupid smile. The other mute was tall. His eyes had a quick, intelligent expression. He was always immaculate and very soberly dressed.
Every morning the two friends walked silently together until they reached the main street of the town. Then when they came to a certain fruit and candy store they paused for a moment on the sidewalk outside. The Greek, Spiros Antonapoulos, worked for his cousin, who owned this fruit store. His job was to make candies and sweets, uncrate the fruits, and to keep the place clean. The thin mute, John Singer, nearly always put his hand on his friend’s arm and looked for a second into his face before leaving him. Then after this good-bye Singer crossed the street and walked on alone to the jewelry store where he worked as a silverware engraver.
In the late afternoon the friends would meet again. Singer came back to the fruit store and waited until Antonapoulos was ready to go home. The Greek would be lazily unpacking a case of peaches or melons, or perhaps looking at the funny paper in the kitchen behind the store where he cooked. Before their departure Antonapoulos always opened a paper sack he kept hidden during the day on one of the kitchen shelves. Inside were stored various bits of food he had collected—a piece of fruit, samples of candy, or the butt-end of a liverwurst. Usually before leaving Antonapoulos waddled gently to the glassed case in the front of the store where some meats and cheeses were kept. He glided open the back of the case and his fat hand groped lovingly for some particular dainty inside which he had wanted. Sometimes his cousin who owned the place did not see him. But if he noticed he stared at his cousin with a warning in his tight, pale face. Sadly Antonapoulos would shuffle the morsel from one corner of the case to the other. During these times Singer stood very straight with his hands in his pockets and looked in another direction. He did not like to watch this little scene between the two Greeks. For, excepting drinking and a certain solitary secret pleasure, Antonapoulos loved to eat more than anything else in the world.
In the dusk the two mutes walked slowly home together. At home Singer was always talking to Antonapoulos. His hands shaped the words in a swift series of designs. His face was eager and his gray-green eyes sparkled brightly. With his thin, strong hands he told Antonapoulos all that had happened during the day.
Antonapoulos sat back lazily and looked at Singer. It was seldom that he ever moved his hands to speak at all—and then it was to say that he wanted to eat or to sleep or to drink. These three things he always said with the same vague, fumbling signs. At night, if he were not too drunk, he would kneel down before his bed and pray awhile. Then his plump hands shaped the words ‘Holy Jesus,’ or ‘God,’ or ‘Darling Mary.’ These were the only words Antonapoulos ever said. Singer never knew just how much his friend understood of all the things he told him. But it did not matter.
They shared the upstairs of a small house near the business section of the town. There were two rooms. On the oil stove in the kitchen Antonapoulos cooked all of their meals. There were straight, plain kitchen chairs for Singer and an overstuffed sofa for Antonapoulos. The bedroom was furnished mainly with a large double bed covered with an eiderdown comforter for the big Greek and a narrow iron cot for Singer.
Dinner always took a long time, because Antonapoulos loved food and he was very slow. After they had eaten, the big Greek would lie back on his sofa and slowly lick over each one of his teeth with his tongue, either from a certain delicacy or because he did not wish to lose the savor of the meal— while Singer washed the dishes.
Sometimes in the evening the mutes would play chess. Singer had always greatly enjoyed this game, and years before he had tried to teach it to Antonapoulos. At first his friend could not be interested in the reasons for moving the various pieces about on the board. Then Singer began to keep a bottle of something good under the table to be taken out after each lesson. The Greek never got on to the errratic movements of the knights and the sweeping mobility of the queens, but he learned to make a few set, opening moves. He preferreeeeed the white pieces and would not play if the black men were given him. After the first moves Singer worked out the game by himself while his friend looked on drowsily. If Singer made brilliant attacks on his own men so that in the end the black king was killed, Antonapoulos was always very proud and pleased.
The two mutes had no other friends, and except when they worked they were alone together. Each day was very much like any other day, because they were alone so much that nothing ever disturbed them. Once a week they would go to the library for Singer to withdraw a mystery book and on Friday night they attended a movie. Then on payday they always went to the ten-cent photograph shop above the Army and Navy Store so that Antonapoulos could have his picture taken. These were the only places where they made customary visits. There were many parts in the town that they had never even seen.
The town was in the middle of the deep South. The summers were long and the months of winter cold were very few. Nearly always the sky was a glassy, brilliant azure and the sun burned down riotously bright. Then the light, chill rains of November would come, and perhaps later there would be frost and some short months of cold. The winters were changeable, but the summers always were burning hot. The town was a fairly large one. On the main street there were several blocks of two- and three-story shops and business offices. But the largest buildings in the town were the factories, which employed a large percentage of the population. These cotton mills were big and flourishing and most of the workers in the town were poor. Often in the faces along the streets there was the desperate look of hunger and of loneliness.
But the two mutes were not lonely at all. At home they were content to eat and drink, and Singer would talk with his hands eagerly to his friend about all that was in his mind. So the years passed in this quiet way until Singer reached the age of thirty-two and had been in the town with Antonapoulos for ten years.
Then one day the Greek became ill. He sat up in bed with his hands on his fat stomach and big, oily tears rolled down his cheeks. Singer went to see his friend’s cousin who owned the fruit store, and also he arranged for leave from his own work. The doctor made out a diet for Antonapoulos and said that he could drink no more wine. Singer rigidly enforced the doctor’s orders. All day he sat by his friend’s bed and did what he could to make the time pass quickly, but Antonapoulos only looked at him angrily from the corners of his eyes and would not be amused. The Greek was very fretful, and kept finding fault with the fruit drinks and food that Singer prepared for him. Constantly he made his friend help him out of bed so that he could pray. His huge buttocks would sag down over his plump little feet when he kneeled. He fumbled with his hands to say ‘Darling Mary’ and then held to the small brass cross tied to his neck with a dirty string. His big eyes would wall up to the ceiling with a look of fear in them, and afterward he was very sulky and would not let his friend speak to him.
Singer was patient and did all that he could. He drew little pictures, and once he made a sketch of his friend to amuse him. This picture hurt the big Greek’s feelings, and he refused to be reconciled until Singer had made his face very young and handsome and colored his hair bright yellow and his eyes china blue. And then he tried not to show his pleasure.
Singer nursed his friend so carefully that after a week Antonapoulos was able to return to his work. But from that time on there was a difference in their way of life. Trouble came to the two friends.
Antonapoulos was not ill any more, but a change had come in him. He was irritable and no longer content to spend the evenings quietly in their home. When he would wish to go out Singer followed along close behind him. Antonapoulos would go into a restaurant, and while they sat at the table he slyly put lumps of sugar, or a peppershaker, or pieces of silverware in his pocket. Singer always paid for what he took and there was no disturbance. At home he scolded Antonapoulos, but the big Greek only looked at him with a bland smile.
The months went on and these habits of Antonapoulos grew worse. One day at noon he walked calmly out of the fruit store of his cousin and urinated in public against the wall of the First National Bank Building across the street. At times he would meet people on the sidewalk whose faces did not please him, and he would bump into these persons and push at them with his elbows and stomach. He walked into a store one day and hauled out a floor lamp without paying for it, and another time he tried to take an electric train he had seen in a showcase.
For Singer this was a time of great distress. He was continually marching Antonapoulos down to the courthouse during lunch hour to settle these infringements of the law. Singer became very familiar with the procedure of the courts and he was in a constant state of agitation. The money he had saved in the bank was spent for bail and fines. All of his efforts and money were used to keep his friend out of jail because of such charges as theft, committing public indecencies, and assault and battery.
The Greek cousin for whom Antonapoulos worked did not enter into these troubles at all. Charles Parker (for that was the name this cousin had taken) let Antonapoulos stay on at the store, but he watched him always with his pale, tight face and he made no effort to help him. Singer had a strange feeling about Charles Parker. He began to dislike him.
Singer lived in continual turmoil and worry. But Antonapoulos was always bland, and no matter what happened the gentle, flaccid smile was still on his face. In all the years before it had seemed to Singer that there was something very subtle and wise in this smile of his friend. He had never known just how much Antonapoulos understood and what he was thinking. Now in the big Greek’s expression Singer thought that he could detect something sly and joking. He would shake his friend by the shoulders until he was very tired and explain things over and over with his hands. But nothing did any good.
All of Singer’s money was gone and he had to borrow from the jeweler for whom he worked. On one occasion he was un- able to pay bail for his friend and Antonapoulos spent the night in jail. When Singer came to get him out the next day he was very sulky. He did not want to leave. He had enjoyed his dinner of sowbelly and cornbread with syrup poured over it. And the new sleeping arrangements and his cellmates pleased him.
They had lived so much alone that Singer had no one to help him in his distress. Antonapoulos let nothing disturb him or cure him of his habits. At home he sometimes cooked the new dish he had eaten in the jail, and on the streets there was never any knowing just what he would do.
And then the final trouble came to Singer.
One afternoon he had come to meet Antonapoulos at the fruit store when Charles Parker handed him a letter. The letter explained that Charles Parker had made arrangements for his cousin to be taken to the state insane asylum two hundred miles away. Charles Parker had used his influence in the town and the details were already settled. Antonapoulos was to leave and to be admitted into the asylum the next week.
Singer read the letter several times, and for a while he could not think. Charles Parker was talking to him across the counter, but he did not even try to read his lips and understand. At last Singer wrote on the little pad he always carried in his pocket:
You cannot do this. Antonapoulos must stay with me.
Charles Parker shook his head excitedly. He did not know much American. ‘None of your business,’ he kept saying over and over.
Singer knew that everything was finished. The Greek was afraid that some day he might be responsible for his cousin. Charles Parker did not know much about the American language —but he understood the American dollar very well, and he had used his money and influence to admit his cousin to the asylum without delay.
There was nothing Singer could do.
The next week was full of feverish activity. He talked and talked. And although his hands never paused to rest he could not tell all that he had to say. He wanted to talk to Antonapoulos of all the thoughts that had ever been in his mind and heart, but there was not time. His gray eyes glittered and his quick, intelligent face expressed great strain. Antonapoulos watched him drowsily, and his friend did not know just what he really understood.
Then came the day when Antonapoulos must leave. Singer brought out his own suitcase and very carefully packed the best of their joint possessions. Antonapoulos made himself a lunch to eat during the journey. In the late afternoon they walked arm in arm down the street for the last time together. It was a chilly afternoon in late November, and little huffs of breath showed in the air before them.
Charles Parker was to travel with his cousin, but he stood apart from them at the station. Antonapoulos crowded into the bus and settled himself with elaborate preparations on one of the front seats. Singer watched him from the window and his hands began desperately to talk for the last time with his friend. But Antonapoulos was so busy checking over the various items in his lunch box that for a while he paid no attention. Just before the bus pulled away from the curb he turned to Singer and his smile was very bland and remote—as though already they were many miles apart.
The weeks that followed didn’t seem real at all. All day Singer worked over his bench in the back of the jewelry store, and then at night he returned to the house alone. More than anything he wanted to sleep. As soon as he came home from work he would lie on his cot and try to doze awhile. Dreams came to him when he lay there half-asleep. And in all of them Antonapoulos was there. His hands would jerk nervously, for in his dreams he was talking to his friend and Antonapoulos was watching him.
Singer tried to think of the time before he had ever known his friend. He tried to recount to himself certain things that had happened when he was young. But none of these things he tried to remember seemed real.
There was one particular fact that he remembered, but it was not at all important to him. Singer recalled that, although he had been deaf since he was an infant, he had not always been a real mute. He was left an orphan very young and placed in an institution for the deaf. He had learned to talk with his hands and to read. Before he was nine years old he could talk with one hand in the American way—and also could employ both of his hands after the method of Europeans. He had learned to follow the movements of people’s lips and to understand what they said. Then finally he had been taught to speak.
At the school he was thought very intelligent. He learned the lessons before the rest of the pupils. But he could never become used to speaking with his lips. It was not natural to him, and his tongue felt like a whale in his mouth. From the blank expression on people’s faces to whom he talked in this way he felt that his voice must be like the sound of some animal or that there was something disgusting in his speech. It was painful for him to try to talk with his mouth, but his hands were always ready to shape the words he wished to say. When he was twenty-two he had come south to this town from Chicago and he met Antonapoulos immediately. Since that time he had never spoken with his mouth again, because with his friend there was no need for this.
Nothing seemed real except the ten years with Antonapoulos. In his half-dreams he saw his friend very vividly, and when he awakened a great aching loneliness would be in him. Occasionally he would pack up a box for Antonapoulos, but he never received any reply. And so the months passed in this empty, dreaming way.
In the spring a change came over Singer. He could not sleep and his body was very restless. At evening he would walk monotonously around the room, unable to work off a new feeling of energy. If he rested at all it was only during a few hours before dawn—then he would drop bluntly into a sleep that lasted until the morning light struck suddenly beneath his opening eyelids like a scimitar.
He began spending his evenings walking around the town. He could no longer stand the rooms where Antonapoulos had lived, and he rented a place in a shambling boardinghouse not far from the center of the town.
He ate his meals at a restaurant only two blocks away. This restaurant was at the very end of the long main street and the name of the place was the New York Café. The first day he glanced over the menu quickly and wrote a short note and handed it to the proprietor.
Each morning for breakfast I want an egg, toast, and coffee— $0.15 For lunch I want soup (any kind), a meat sandwich, and milk— $0.25 Please bring me at dinner three vegetables (any kind but cabbage), fish or meat, and a glass of beer— $0.35 Thank you.
The proprietor read the note and gave him an alert, tactful glance. He was a hard man of middle height, with a beard so dark and heavy that the lower part of his face looked as though it were molded of iron. He usually stood in the corner by the cash register, his arms folded over his chest, quietly observing all that went on around him. Singer came to know this man’s face very well, for he ate at one of his tables three times a day.
Each evening the mute walked alone for hours in the street. Sometimes the nights were cold with the sharp, wet winds of March and it would be raining heavily. But to him this did not matter. His gait was agitated and he always kept his hands stuffed tight into the pockets of his trousers. Then as the weeks passed the days grew warm and languorous. His agitation gave way gradually to exhaustion and there was a look about him of deep calm. In his face there came to be a brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise. But still he wandered through the streets of the town, always silent and alone.
Copyright 1940 by Carson Smith McCullers. Copyright renewed © 1967 by Carson McCullers. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
When one puts [this book] down, it is with…a feeling of having been nourished by the truth.
“To me the most impressive aspect of THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER is the astonishing humanity that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice of those of her own race. This cannot be accounted for stylistically or politically; it seems to stem from an attitude toward life.”Richard Wright
"When one puts [this book] down, it is with . . . a feeling of having been nourished by the truth."May Sarton
"A remarkable book . . . [McCullers] writes with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming." The New York Times
"Quite remarkable . . . McCullers leaves her characters hauntingly engraved in the reader's memory." The Nation
"To me the most impressive aspect of 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter' is the astonishing humanity that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice as those of her own race."Richard Wright New Republic
"One cannot help remarking that this is an extraordinary novel to have been written by a young woman of twenty-two; but the more important fact is that it is an extraordinary novel in its own right, considerations of authorship apart."Saturday Review of Literature Saturday Review
"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter has remarkable power, sweep and certainty . . . Her art suggests a Van Gogh painting peopled with Faulkner figures." The New York Times Book Review
"Sensitively conceived and expertly told . . . Its quality as writing and the intensity of its theme combine to make it one of the outstanding novels of recent years."Times-Picayune
"Besides telling a good story, the author has peopled it with a small group of characters so powerfully drawn as to linger long in memory." Philadelphia Inquirer
"[McCullers] writes with a calm and factual realism, and with a deep and abiding insight into human psychology. She does so without an iota of vulgarity and bawdiness, in a manner which many a present day novelist would do well to study." Boston Globe
"There is not only the delicately sensed need that one might expect youth to know but an even more delicately sensed ironic knowledge." The Chicago Tribune
"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a miracle of compassion, pity, and irony. Form and matter are perfectly blended in the novel."Virginia Quarterly Review
Remarkable devoid of sentimentality...What astounding insight into the ultimate consolability and incurability of the human soul!
Reading Group Guide
An Introduction from the Publisher
When The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers's literary debut, was first published by Houghton Mifflin, on June 4, 1940, the twenty-three-year-old author became a literary sensation virtually overnight. The novel is considered McCullers's finest work, an enduring masterpiece that was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the top one hundred works of fiction published in the twentieth century.
Set in a small Southern mill town in the 1930s, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated. At the novel's center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who is left alone after his friend and roommate, Antonapoulos, is sent away to an asylum. Singer moves into a boarding house and begins taking his meals at the local diner, and in this new setting he becomes the confidant of several social outcasts and misfits. Drawn to Singer's kind eyes and attentive demeanor are Mick Kelly, a spirited young teenager with dreams greater than her economic means; Jake Blount, an itinerant social reformer with a penchant for drink and violence; Biff Brannon, the childless proprietor of the local café; and Dr. Copeland, a proud black intellectual whose unwavering ideals have left him alienated from those who love him.
With its profound sense of moral isolation, compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, and deft portrayal of racial tensions in the South, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is considered one of the most extraordinary debuts in modern American literature. Richard Wright praised McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is Carson McCullers at her endearing best, and just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published.
Questions for Discussion
We hope the following questions will stimulate discussion for reading groups and provide a deeper understanding of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter for every reader.
1. The title of the book comes from a poem by William Sharp, with the lines "But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts / On a lonely hill." What is the significance of the title? Is each character in the novel hunting the same thing, or is each in search of something different? McCullers's original title for the book was The Mute. Why do you suppose the change was made?
2. McCullers describes John Singer as "an emotional catalyst for all the other characters." What does his presence inspire in others? Do you believe that he remains inert, as a catalyst by definition should, or is he himself affected by his interactions with the others? Why or why not?
3. McCullers once described the central characters in the novel as "heroic, though ordinary." How does each character show elements of heroism? Is there a character you find more heroic than the rest?
4. In the book's first section, Biff's wife, Alice, quotes Mark 1:1618: "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." How does this quote resonate throughout the novel? What role does spirituality play in the novel? Do the characters strive for communion with a higher spiritual force or unifying principle, something greater than themselves?
5. Music has great importance in the book, from Mick's aspirations to become a pianist to Willie's ever-present harmonica. McCullers, who had once hoped to study music at Juilliard, even described the structure of the novel as a three-part fugue, and explained, "Like a voice in a fugue, each one of the main characters is an entity in himself but his personality takes on a new richness when contrasted and woven in with the other characters in the book." In what other ways does this musicality assert itself in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter? What does music symbolize in the novel? How, too, is silence used?
6. The novel has been widely praised for its ability to illustrate how social, economic, and racial factors serve to isolate people from one another. In what way is each character isolated? What efforts does each make to overcome this alienation? Are the efforts successful or ultimately futile?
7. John Singer dreams he is kneeling before Antonapoulos, who stands at the head of a set of stairs. Behind Singer kneel the four other main characters: Mick, Biff, Jake, and Copeland. How does Singer's dream reflect the relationships among the main characters? To what extent is Singer's love of Antonapoulos similar to the attention paid to Singer by Mick, Biff, Jake, and Copeland? Are these characters capable of loving one another? Of receiving love? Are some characters better emotionally equipped than others? Why or why not?
8. Mick Kelly is considered the most autobiographical character McCullers ever created. Mick's tomboyishness, her musical aspirations, and her dream to escape small-town life parallel the author's own. When Mick realizes she cannot afford a violin, she tries to build her own. What does the violin symbolize? What does this act tell you about Mick's character? Do you have sympathy for her when she fails? Do you feel closer to Mick than you do to the other narrators?
9. Mick compartmentalizes her thoughts into what she calls an inner room and an outer room. Why does she do this? Do other characters show this same type of duality? How does it manifest itself?
10. When Jake Blount finds a Bible passage written on a wall, he responds with his own message and then searches for the person who wrote the original message. Why is it important to him to find that person?
11. Dr. Copeland has great dreams for his family and for his community, but he is unable to gain much support for his ideas. Do you think Copeland's self-perception that he is a failure is valid? How many of his frustrations are a result of racial bias in society? Why do you suppose his relationships with his children are fraught?
12. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter has been praised for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of racial tensions in the Depression-era South. What relevance does the novel have today? How much has changed since the 1930s? (Hougton Mifflin)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book sophomore year in high school for my English honors class, and at first I was skeptical, but the characters grew on me, with complex, developed personalities, and although it has a depressing touch, I fell utterly in love with this book, and Singer. This book made me cry, laugh and think about life in a different perspective. I recommend this book to teens and adults. You won't regret it.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is the 2013 selection for the Big Read project that is sponsored by the NEA to encourage reading in communities throughout the US. In an interview, the author, McCullers, stated that the form for this book is inspired by a musical form,the fugue. A fugue contains a single motif or several motifs that are repeated over and over again throughout the piece. In the novel, the motif is loneliness which is acted out by the central character John Singer who is deaf and mute. The other main characters, Biff, Mick, Dr. Copeland, and Jake struggle with their individual form of loneliness and seek out Mr. Singer who, ironically, is the only person with whom they can communicate and the only person who also understands them. Set in an unnamed Georgia Mill town, the novel opens up a door to another time and place where attitudes towards people with disabilities, different religions, different ethnicities,and surprising political views are dramatically different from today. Published more than 70 years ago, this book is worth taking a look at in 2013.
honestly i read this book after watching "a love song for bobby long" in which scarlett johansson's character reads it. i know, not really a good excuse for picking up a book. but it was also on a booklist of books every person should read before they die. so i was really excited to read it. overall it was a decent book. worth reading once i guess, but definitely not one i'd be likely to pick up again. it had it's moments where i couldn't put it down (towards the end) and then moments where it literally made me want to take a nap after about 10 pages.
I usually fly through most reads, but this is one novel that took me some time to get through. It was a book that I could easily put down, and yet felt compelled over and over again to pick up again the next day. It seemed little really happened in the book--and yet, EVERYTHING happened. It's difficult to explain. What did I take away from it? We are all looking for that one person, one connection that completely understands us. We yearn for that someone who can see into our souls and understand all those things we can't always even put into words. Four of the main characters each thought they found that person in Mr. Singer. And Mr. Singer thought he found that in his friend, the Greek. And yet they all deluded themselves. No matter how much we reach out to others, the human condition is at its deepest level, a lonely one. Most importantly, I can only touch the surface of what I took away from this story. Much like Mick, who would pound her fists in frustration at what she felt in her heart but could never express, this is a book that calls for understanding on a very different level.
Southern literature has always fascinated me. From Faulkner to Childress I don't seem to be able to get enough. While I enjoy O'Connor enough, I find McCullers so much more accesible. The story of a lonely girl--a coming-of-age-story really--THE HEART is one of my favorite books. The protagonist lives in a boarding house that her mother runs, and upstairs lives a mute. In the town, there are two of the--mutes--and the main character makes, or rather 'tries' to make friends with the one in the house. She plays records for him and we feel her frustration at trying to make him understand what music is. Since he's deaf, he can't comprehend. The girl is frustrated on so many levels: She feels trapped by the small southern town she lives in, she wants to be a musician and really has no outlet for this, even making a makeshift violin out of a cigar box, she has a bratty little brother, and she feels that no one understands her. I would equate this book to other great southern classics such as 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Lee or McCrae's 'Bark of the Dogwood' as they too are coming of age books, each one totally different. If you have a heart you'll love 'THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER.'
This book speaks of the lonely jorney we all take as we try to find that connection with a person who truly understands us, but not just that it goes into each characters dreames, fears and troubles. :)
Certainly belongs in the 100 greatest novels of all time.
I used to attend college in Columbus (at Columbus State University), the city in which McCullers grew up. Our university owns her house and we often times host events their. We have her books all around the house and I finally decided to read one. I chose The Heart is A Lonely Hunter because I had heard that it was the best representation of McCullers work.
It took me a while to get through this particular book but when I finished I was like: Wow, that touched me on a whole other level. Carson McCullers' character development is extraordinary. At the end I really cared for the characters and their ultimate fate. Also, McCullers' dialects, that are present in the novel, proves her strength as a writer.
Author Mylene Dressler spent some time living in McCullers' home as part of an upcoming artist program at the university. I have listed some her novels in the "I Also Recommend" section.
I read tons of "pulp" novels, and I've started adding some classics to my wish list, largely to see if the books I abhorred in high school would be more enjoyable if they were not assigned reading. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was no better now.
As a character study it is superb; the main characters are deep, believable, and unique. I understood the characters, or at least why they didn't understand themselves. Each chapter with Mr. Singer made me smile with anticipation while I waited for something magical to happen to make the characters happy.
That was the problem with the book. Each chapter barely moves the story forward, and in the end nothing happens. There is so much potential for characters to talk and understand and change, but it never happens and the potential hangs over the entire book like a cloud. The book simply ends. No character is better off than they were in the beginning, no character's life path is appreciably changed from those of their next door neighbors. In short, with the exception of Mr. Singer, there was no reason to write about these characters in terms of their participation in events that are worth writing about.
The book was not a labor to get through, but I was largely unsatisfied with the resolution. I don't need a happy ending, but atleast give me a sense that the previous 200 pages somewhat affected that ending.
Got this book as a gift from a used book store. I would not have chose it as a read of choice. Now I am glad I did. Sad, but well written. I would recommend this book.
The emptiness, the longing, the loneliness, is portrayed by Carson McCullers through her novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Introducing characters like Mick, Singer, Blount, and Doctor Copeland, she dives into the everyday lives of each, revealing the innermost secrets of their hearts. Rather than giving stories of happenings, she illustrates the struggles and battles of the minds of individuals that draw the readers to connect with the characters. For me, I found pleasure in befriending these characters and getting to know them, finding similarities in which I could relate to. These unique characters are dramatized sketches of humans in reality these feelings of frustration and an unknown probing of the heart do exist commonly among us. It comforted me that these problems were shared by others too, and that I was definitely not alone in my stand. McCullers shows the needs for purpose in life, and portrays the anticipation and excitement of holding a deep passion inside, something to live and die for. As I read this book, without reason, this feeling of renewed freshness aroused within me, and I gained encouragement in my loneliness to continue to strive for something. Even though some of the characters met unfortunate outcomes, McCullers used them to bring me a different kind of hope and strength.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is one of the best books I have read. I was forced to read this because it was either McCullers or Sense and Sensibility, which my mom labeled as a ¿Girly book¿. Once I started reading the book I was hooked by Carson's messages hidden within the stories of five main characters, all linked to one deaf-mute who lost his one and only friend. Although this book lacks metaphors and similes, McCullers still draws the reader with the appeal to pathos by telling the depressing story of the main characters. While I was reading this book, I wanted to stop because it was so dramatic and depressing, but the individual stories of the characters gave me an urge to continue reading. I connected with this book because it mainly dissects the life of John Singer, a deaf-mute, and through his hardships, I saw a new concept of love and friendship that strengthened my connection with my friends. Although I have never read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, I am grateful that I chose The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good read because it has definitely helped me appreciate my life.
This was one of my summer reading books for my sophomore year Honors English class. I also found that the picture of McCullers on the front cover stared me down until I picked it up. When I first began reading, I found the book a little bit difficult to get into. However, in chapter two, the introduction of some new characters grabbed my attention, and held it from then on. McCullers spins a captivating tale of five social outcasts and their struggle against isolation. Each character is searching for someone that will accept and understand them. One thing I liked about this novel was that all of the characters are easily understood, and I was able to relate them to myself or someone I know. McCullers accomplished this through the use of different viewpoints. This book provided an interesting view of the South, covering a wide range of aspects of life in that time, from racial and non-racial prejudices, to the daily struggles of an average family to make ends meet, to the trials and tribulations of growing up. McCullers intertwines all of this beautifully into a melancholy tale, teaching readers about human emotion. She carefully develops characters and their conflicts, which in turn support the themes that shape this story. I recommend this piece of literature to all readers.
I read this book for summer reading in my sophmore year of highschool. This was a book that I did not think I would like, but from page one until the end, I was hooked. The cover itself looks very intimidating, but when I picked it up and read the back I thought 'This looks interesting'. One of the last things a kid wants to do is read a long summer reading book, but this one was worth it. Reading for long periods of time, without even realizing the hours that have gone by is just part of this heart felt story. I felt that I could relate to some of the characters in the novel as well. Being a teen girl helped me relate to a lot of the problems that Mick struggled with throughout the story. Also, my little brother happens to be deaf 'but not muted' and often reads lips which helped me understand Singer's character too. When McCullers talks about the intricate designs that Singer makes with his hands, it reminds me of my little brother talking in sign language to his friends at school. In addition, reading about Carson McCullers's life after finishing the book made me more interested in what went on. Carson McCullers has many connections in the novel to her depressing and tragic life, which made me even more interested. The characters, themes, setting, and conflict assisted in supporting and evolving this deep, touching story. I recommend this book to everyone.
it's really great. is a bit slow, but it makes up for it in the writing. simple.
This is a coming-of-age novel, but it is atypical given that it's told from the perspective of four very divergent characters: a young girl, a drunken socialist, a black doctor and a sympathetic deaf mute. Each of the characters share similarities: they are yearning for something that will help them "grow" emotionally. The delightful young girl, Mick Kelly, shifts between being a playful tomboy and a proper young lady. Her "journey" is a heartfelt one: a poor girl who has an amazing amount of creative energy but doesn't know how to channel it in a fulfilling way. It's not until she has some kind of "awakening" that she realises she is growing up and that her destiny is in her hands. The deaf mute was portrayed brilliantly by Alan Arkin (nominated for an academy award) in the 1968 film.
It's amazing to think this book was written by a young white girl of 23. It paints a vivid picture of life in a poor mill town in the south following the Depression. She shows such a breadth of understanding - both genders, all age groups, black and white. Given the prejudices prevailing at that time her tolerance, compassion and humanity are all the more remarkable. The story focuses on five main characters. All are underdogs, oddballs or battlers. Each has a dream, but each finds themselves frustrated, and sadly these dreams turn to ashes - and in some cases death.
Set in the American south in the 1930s, this classic novel is an intense character study. Each chapter focuses on one of five characters: - Mick Kelly, a teenage girl shouldering the burden of caring for younger siblings, and hoping for better things in life- Biff Brannon, a local restaurant owner, who as a result of his profession observes the comings and goings of the town's white population- Jake Blount, a loudmouth alcoholic working at a local amusement park frequented by the town's African-American population- Benedict Copeland, an African-American doctor and passionate advocate for "negro rights"- Mr. Singer, a deaf man who lives as a boarder in Mick's houseMick, Biff, Jake, and Dr. Copeland each befriend Mr. Singer independently, and visit him regularly in his rooms. Each in their own way reveals their soul and their dreams. Singer lip-reads and occasionally comments in writing, but mostly he is a blank canvas. Each of the five is terribly lonely and isolated, but they find solace in Mr. Singer. He is, for each person, whoever they want him to be. Singer himself is fulfilled by periodic visits to a former roommate, another deaf man who has been placed in an institution.This makes for an intriguing story and it's quite well-written, and yet I found it difficult to read. Each individual's story is depressing and holds out little hope. And it may have just been a bad time for me to read something like this. I can understand its place in the canon of classic literature, and would even recommend it to others. Just be prepared for it and consider having something more uplifting to read concurrently.
I find this book a bit boring honestly. There would be moments when I think it would pick up, and then it falls back down to the serene and stagnant pace that it carries throughout. No doubt it carries important messages and revelations, which I am not quite sure to be for me necessarily. I think I prefer something a bit more modern, but it's not the first time that I find Southern literature hard to comprehend. On that note, this book does remind me a bit of Faulkner, whom I find hard and dull to read too.
The disparate lives of five people come together when a gay, deaf man takes a room in a boarding house and befriends them all. Set in a southern mill town during the 1930's, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, explores the desperation that we all experience when we feel that we are alone in the world.I first read this book when I was in high school, about thirty-three years ago. Although there were some subtleties that I didn't pick up on (such as the fact that the character John Singer is gay), I was profoundly moved by the lives of each character and the loneliness and hopelessness they all felt. For a book in which very little happens, the story is gripping. Every character - from an elderly African-American doctor to a thirteen-year-old white girl - is written with such compassion and insight that I felt that I knew them all intimately.Unfortunately, the book is heartbreaking, and the end leaves the reader with a sense of hopelessness. It's a book that stayed with me back when I was fourteen, and a book that continues to live within me all this time later.
I nearly gave up on this novel, when 150 pages into it, I still wasn't completely immersed in the world of the characters, but I'm glad I didn't. McCullers creates beautifully complex characters each seeking to find a "cure" for their feelings of isolation in Singer, a deaf mute, that the three main characters visit regularly. I felt the most intriguing, optimistic and in the end, heroic character was Mick Kelly who has musical aspirations, but is limited by the poverty that surrounds her. I love how McCullers writes about Mick's "inner room" where her thoughts reside and her "outer room" where she interacts with the world around her. Mick seeks to share her love of music with Singer, who's name is ironic as he can't sing or even talk to her. Another interesting character is Dr. Copeland, an African-American doctor, who is well educated and seeks to raise the black people up out of oppression with Marxist teachings and education. He finds solace in sharing his ideas with Singer, because he thinks that Singer may be one of only a few enlightened white people.Another social reformer, Jake Blount, appears in Singer's room at the Kelly house often to rant and rave about the working class and the need to reform. The reader gets the impression that Jake may suffer from some mental illness--dressing, speaking and acting as two different people at times, and drinking large amounts of alcohol throughout the novel. Jake and Dr. Copeland have similar beliefs but cannot see past each of their races to fully unite with the other's cause.Last, is Biff the owner of the New York Cafe. Biff enjoys Singer's company, but doesn't seem to share this thoughts and ideas with him. One gets the feeling that Biff is just lonely, keeping his cafe open 24 hours a day for no other reason that to meet a few individuals one might miss if it was closed. Biff is mysterious in the end. The reader finds out that he has no great love for his wife and that he would like to have kids, but the deeper story of their marriage's demise and why he begins to delve into his feminine side upon his wife's death is left untold. Ultimately, Singer, himself feels isolate from what he wants most out of life--the friendship of another deaf mute. He isn't really as the others perceive him either. Perhaps the novel's timelessness is the fact that we all have "inner rooms" we feel no one can penetrate, which in its isolation, is a strange kind of beauty.
This is a novel of the American South in the decade or so preceding the Civil Rights Movement. The central character is a deaf mute of almost saintly demeanor, Singer. His story constitutes the narrative spine along which the stories of his fellow characters are strung. These include Mink Kelley, who is dealing with late Depression Era America from the point of view of a 13 year old girl. Dr. Copeland, the unnamed town's "negro" doctor who knows that civil rights for his "people" is in the offing, but is frustrated and angry that his own efforts toward that end have been ineffective. There is alcoholic Jake Blount, a carney whose narrow ideological Communism leaves him also frustrated and angry. Blount is in many ways the white counterpart of Copeland. Their thinking is similar on many issues, but their meeting of the minds is not a productive one. Biff Brannon is the owner of a local restaurant, the New York Cafe. He is probably gay, as may be Singer, whose mute roommate Antonapoulis is committed to an asylum in the early going because of anti-social behavior. The storyline has a wonderful, almost unflagging narrative sweep that is rare. McCullers wrote this when she was 21 and 22. The result is impressive. I think her greatest gift as an author is her deep empathy for her characters. It is this empathy that gives the book its powerful emotional appeal. In that respect I cannot at this moment think of anyone who is quite like McCullers; in other words, she seems to me in this respect utterly original. The method of the novel is for the most part straightforward chronology. There are some flashbacks, but McCuller keeps these to a minimum. The action takes place in an unnamed mill town in what is perhaps Mississippi between two distinct historical events: British PM Chamberlain's appeasement of Nazi Germany at Munich (30 Sept. 1938) and Hitler's demand for Danzig from Poland (late August 1939). But these events are only meant to provide context, and the immediate threat they represented to the nation is not a major concern. It is the South. The hot, humid, muggy, buggy American South. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER is a classic American novel and I recommend it strongly.
"Our mission is to walk with strength and dignity through the days of our humiliation. Our pride mus be strong, for we know the value of the human mind and soul. We must teach our children. ... For the time will come when the riches in us will not be held in scorn and contempt. The time will come when we will be allowed to serve. When we will labor and our labor will not be wasted." Wow. This is the wrap-up of a breathtaking speech by Doctor Copeland. More to follow......
Richly drawn characters. However, the story did not inspire.
I have read this book, published in 1940, twice in the past few decades. It is a stunning novel, even more so when one realizes it was written by a young woman in the starting gate of her 20¿s. It tells the story of four deeply frustrated characters in a small southern town, each of them fixated upon a mute man whom they believe to be their one, true friend. The truth behind their illusions is heartbreaking, and the story may be the finest portrayal of loneliness in the English language. It is essentially easy reading, but astonishingly deep in both style and purpose. One of the great classics of southern American fiction.