The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

First Sentence: In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.

The town in question is in Georgia, the time is the 1930’s, and the mutes are John Singer and Spiros Antonapoulos. When Spiros gets sent to an institute, John Singer is left alone and begins to meet the townsfolk. Four of them in particular: Biff Brannon, owner of the local diner; Mick Kelly, a young tomboy in love with music and her ‘inside place’; Jake Blount, an alcoholic drifter with dreams of revolution, and Dr. Benedict Copeland, a black doctor full of ideals, and somewhat estranged from his family. Each of these characters begins to visit Singer in his rented room and each of them feels a profound affinity with the deaf-mute, projecting their own desires and dreams onto him. Of all these characters I found Mick to be the most endearing. Her love of music is contagious, and I found the passages about her to be the most affecting:

That was the realest part of all the summer – her listening to this music on the radio and studying about it.

I just love the way these parts are written:

She stood in front of the mirror a long time, and finally decided she either looked like a sap or else she looked very beautiful. One or the other.

Even though John Singer is forever around people and everybody can relate to him, we get the feeling that he can relate to nobody. He is always alone, even when he is surrounded by people and as time goes by he begins to feel Spiros’ absence more and more. I found this book to be extremely enjoyable, full of wonderful writing and memorable characters, it definitely left an impression on me.

* * * *

Last Sentence: And when at last he was inside again he composed himself soberly to await the morning sun.

Last Sentence explained: The ‘he’ at the end here is Biff and he has just had a mild panic attack. Earlier in the book his wife dies, and near the end John Singer kills himself with a shotgun blast to the chest. As an older man he is finding all this loss hard to bear. The book ends with him stepping back into his diner to await a new day, kind of hopeful, a little bit lonely. As Mick is my favourite I’ll say where she’s left off. She has taken a job in the first ever Woolworth’s in order to help her family make ends meet and already she feels stuck in a rut. She is always angry and resentful and there is a sense that she may go off the rails, even though she is clearly still a child:

The beer had a nice bitter taste after the ice cream and it made her drunk. Next to music beer was best.

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