With the publication of her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated—and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty. 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
Carson McCullers (1917-1967) was the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and Clock Without Hands. Born in Columbus, Georgia, on February 19, 1917, she became a promising pianist and enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music in New York when she was seventeen, but lacking money for tuition, she never attended classes. Instead she studied writing at Columbia University, which ultimately led to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, the novel that made her an overnight literary sensation. On September 29, 1967, at age fifty, she died in Nyack, New York, where she is buried.
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
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
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
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, fum 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 erratic movements of the knights and the
sweeping mobility of the queens, but he learned to make a few set, opening
moves. He preferred 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 the town were poor. Often
in the faces along the streets there was the desperate look of hunger and of
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 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 g 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 A 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.
Excerpted from The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by McCullers, Carson Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This
“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
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.