The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter Summary

Carson McCullers

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

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The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter Summary

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American novelist and poet Carson McCullers published her first novel, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, in 1940. McCullers was a prodigy in music and literature; she was 23 when her debut won acclaim from critics and spent weeks on the bestseller list.

The novel follows a deaf man, John Singer, and the people in a small mill town who confide in him over the course of a year. Like much of McCullers’ work, the novel is set in Georgia, where she grew up. McCullers wrote the novel while bedridden and recovering from one of many illnesses she suffered throughout her lifetime.

The third person omniscient narrator begins the novel by describing two deaf mutes who never leave one another’s side. The first is a large, possibly mentally disabled Greek man who owns the local fruit store. His name is SpirosAntonapoulos. His friend is a thinner man by the name of John Singer; Singer works as a silverware engraver.He is well-regarded in town for being polite, well-dressed, and nicely groomed. When they leave one another, the two men simply look into each other’s face, nod, and go their separate ways.

One day, Antonapoulous’s doctor forbids him to drink wine. Soon after, Mr. Antonapoulos shows signs of mental illness, namely anti-social behavior and a lack of self-regulation. After making several public scenes, a cousin has him involuntary committed to the state’s insane asylum. Singer tries to defend Antonapoulos to the police, but they lack the patience to translate his gestures and signs. Without anyone to understand him, Singer falls into a depression.

Singer starts appearing each day at the New York Café, a restaurant open late and owned by Biff Brannon. Biff is an unusually kind and observant man. He tries to help those who are facing hard times. Meanwhile, Jake Blount visits the town. Blount is a loud, younger man who is devoted to of labor rights movements. He, like many unemployed men during the depression, is an alcoholic.

One day, he drags his friend, a black doctor and community leader named Dr. Copeland, to New York Café. They exchange ideas about socialism and a more just society until Copeland takes off. Temperamentally, the two could not be more different. Dr. Copeland is calm and fair-minded, a reader of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Jake, meanwhile, quickly swerves from a articulate man to a rude drunk. Blount then starts talking to Biff, and the two strike up a friendship. But it doesn’t take Blount long to start abusing Biff’s generosity when it comes to the tab.

One day, still drunk, Blount decides to tell Singer his life story. Because of his muteness and deafness, Singer is viewed as someone who can’t really understand another person. But Blount doesn’t know until the next day that Singer couldn’t hear his story at all. Still, he remains convinced that Singer understands him on a deep level.

With Blount recovering at his place, Singer checks into a shabby local motel. There, he encounters Mick Kelly, a gangly tomboy who resembles McCullers in appearance and interests. Mick is thirteen and the daughter of the motel’s proprietor. She loves music and is willing to travel anywhere the bus goes in order to hear it. Occasionally, she tells Singer, she travels to a symphony in the city. She stays outside the nearest windows and crouches in the shrubbery throughout the performance. She, like Blount, is lonely, and Singer is happy to give the appearance that he is listening.

A couple weeks into high school, Mick holds a dance at the motel in an attempt to win some friends. She borrows a fancy dress and high heels from her sisters. She spends hours decorating the house with autumn colors and paper leaf cutouts. The night of the party, it doesn’t take long for everyone to sort themselves into cliques. As a party activity, Mick organizes a game where all the boys choose a girl to walk around the block together. The room is silent as the boys deliberate on whom to choose. Eventually, Mick is chosen by a boy named Harry. While they go for their walk, the younger neighborhood children take note of the party. They ruin Mick’s plan for an exclusively high school event, and the party quickly descends into chaos.All the decorations are ruined and Mick injures herself.

Singer visits Antonapoulos in the mental hospital. He is excited to see his friend and brings gifts and food. But when he arrives at the hospital, Antonapoulos is nowhere to be found.A nurse tells Singer that Antonapoulos is dead.Singer returns home and shoots himself in the heart.

The four people who counted on Singer for companionship now must face the world alone.Their fates are discussed in the final section of the novel.Copeland is in bad health and will likely die soon. Singer’s sudden death has left Copeland reeling for answers. His son is unjustly in jail. The Copeland leaves town for a family farm far away.

Jake runs away from a race-based conflict at the Sunny Dixie Show. As a vagabond, he knows that if the police were to find him, he would be blamed for the racial violence, which resulted in many injured and some dead.He is angry with Singer for killing himself. Jake has one last meal with Biff at the café, then heads to a larger city somewhere in the south where he can be lost in a crowd.

Mick’s new job is demeaning and she can’t focus on music anymore. If she thinks about Singer’s suicide, she falls apart. The only bright side is that Singer left her his radio. He died in debt, so she will have to continue paying installments on it, but it gives Mick hope for the future.

The novel ends with Biff Bannon working by himself at his restaurant. He feels less connected to Mick now that she is more of an adult. He misses Blount’s antics. He thinks about the injustices Dr. Copeland experienced. Despite his fear and isolation, Biff resolves to find some inner strength to face the next day.