Friday, April 8, 2011

Thoughts: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

"Owing to the fact that he was a mute they were able to give him all the qualities they wanted him to have."

Before I started writing down my thoughts on Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I looked the book up on Goodreads, and was surprised by the summary provided in the website. Here it is:

"The heroine is the strange young girl, Mick Kelly. The setting is a small Southern town, the cosmos universal and eternal. The characters are the damned, the voiceless, the rejected. Some fight their loneliness with violence and depravity. Some with sex or drink, and some -- like Mick -- with a quiet, intensely personal search for beauty."

Yes, it’s true that Mick Kelly is one of the central characters, but I wouldn’t call her the “heroine” of the novel. The main protagonist in fact is the deaf-mute John Singer.

Just as the spokes of a wheel revolve around a hub, the lives of four other people revolve around John Singer—including Mick Kelly, a thirteen-year-old girl who wants to be a musician, the alcoholic socialist Jake Blount, the black physician Doctor Benedict Mady Copeland, and the owner of the New York CafĂ© Biff Brannon. They’re all as different as people could possibly be, but they have one thing in common. John Singer is the one person who could assuage the loneliness, the sense of isolation, they’re drowning in.

I don’t think I can babble about this book like I usually do in this blog. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter touched me on a deep level. When I put the book down, I felt like I learned something new, something deep, but I didn’t know what. Once more, the novel’s true meaning kept eluding me, and I’m still thinking about it until now.

Yes, I loved it, but it was also depressing beyond belief. The characters all strove to lessen the loneliness they felt by confiding in John Singer. All they wanted was to be understood, and, somehow, they believed they found understanding in John Singer. What they didn’t know was that he felt that the only person who could understand him was Antonapolous, his deaf-mute friend who was sent away to an asylum. It’s a never-ending cycle where the characters seek to stop feeling lonely, but are disappointed. The novel was almost devoid of hope.

Overall, though, I felt that the novel showed me that we’re all lonely, which really means we’re not. Do you think that makes sense? The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is definitely a novel I’ll reread in the coming months.

Rating: 5/5


mooderino said...

I found it quite a depressing book with a cast of fairly unpleasant characters. Didn't really warm to any of them.
Moody Writing

Misha said...

I got this from the library recently. Even though it sounds depressing, I want to read it soon.

.... we’re all lonely, which really means we’re not.

That does make sense!

Avid Reader said...

I loved this one. I completely agree that's it's depressing, but it had such a visceral impact on me. I felt for Singer, his frustration and lonliness were so real. Just a wonderful book.

Ben said...

Moody doesn't like sad novels. I like the way you presented it Darlyn. Will come around to sniff it out for sure. Might try Flannery O'Connor first (you know in this lineage of female writers wearing male names)

mooderino said...

It is true that I'm not a fan of the jerking of tears genre, but it wasn't that sort of sad really. They were all so consigned to their fates, even the little girl, it just came off as grim. I should really read one of her others to see if she's like that all the time.

Have you read anything else by her, Darlyn?

Joanne said...

I avoid sad books. I probably shouldn't, as there are lots of wonderfully written books out there that aren't exactly uplifting. Maybe I'll read this one and then a really happy one straight after.

Trisha said...

Sometimes the truly great books, the ones which really touch us, do so in an abstract, inarticulate way. It's a profound and specific feeling that is difficult to translate into words.

simplerpastimes said...

I read this ages ago and don't remember it at all, but I really wish I did as I know it is quite a good book. I'll have to reread as well!

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

I loved it, and I still think about it, in that haunted sort of way, some books can get under one's skin like that. (I'll probably read it again someday as it is one of my favorites.) Depressing doesn't bother me, it's just realistic.

mel u said...

I need to read this soon-you can listen to one of her short stories, "The Jockey" at the webpage of The New Yorker-

Jessica said...

this was one of the first classic American novels I read and although yes it was depressing I still remember quite alot about it dispite having read it about 10 years ago. Mick just about broke my heart when it became obvious the kind of life that was mapped out for her at such a young age.

bookspersonally said...

Lovely review, this is one of my absolute alltime favorite books. Would love to reread it, am currently rereading Member of the Wedding.

Glad to find & follow you through Sarcastic Feminist Literary blog!


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