Briynne's Reviews > The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
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May 25, 2012

really liked it
Read in March, 2012

I loved this book, but it depressed me to absolutely no end. It is a collection of woven-together stories that take place in a rather dreary factory town in the Deep South. There is a restless teenager named Mick who precariously teeters on the line between being a girl and a woman, a socialist discontent and drunk named Jake, the Copeland family who suffer the indignities of endemic, violent racism, and the unhappily married Mr. Brannon who runs a local diner.

But it is Mr. Singer, a man who can neither hear nor speak, who is the beautifully-constructed tragic figure at the center of the many interlocking stories that make up the novel. His silence and patient hospitality allow all manner of misfits and troubled souls to project whatever it is they are looking for onto him - they all imagine that he deeply sympathizes with their views and that he understands them in a way no one else does for the simple reason that he can’t say anything to the contrary and only half understands what they are talking about. Ironically, even though he is nearly plagued with the company of so many people, he is hopelessly lonely. He pines and obsesses over the memory of his utterly useless friend, a fellow deaf-mute man, who has been carted off to an asylum of sorts; regardless of the fact that his friend was selfish, lazy, vaguely disgusting, and showed absolutely no regard for him, Mr. Singer loves him and makes expensive, gift-laden pilgrimages to see his friend as often as he can. The trips seems to be his only real pleasure in life, as heartbreaking as that is.

Dr. Copeland also made me just incredibly sad. The goal of his whole life was to inspire his community’s fellow African-Americans to somehow pull themselves out of their often miserable circumstances by their bootstraps and beat a system that was basically designed against them. He led a Spartan life of extreme self-discipline that drove away his wife and children all for the goal of being exemplary and making a point to himself and others about the what could be achieved through pure force of will. While all of his patients looked up to him, none of them really wanted to emulate his severe lifestyle which excluded religion and most manner of fun, and he ended up an embittered old man who saw that he really hadn’t changed anything despite all his struggle. On top of his disappointment were the daily reminders that most white men viewed him with either contempt or smirking condescension, even though he was a keenly dignified, intelligent, and accomplished man, and there was all but nothing he could do about it.

I really got hooked by this book - it pulls you in even though it’s not at all a fun read. There is so much sadness and a sense of hopelessness that bubbles under the surface of every character. There is no Disney ending where they all find their way and walk off into the sunset together, but their pain and troubles feel wonderfully real. This is a fantastic book, and I would definitely recommend it.
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