The Heart is a Lonely Hunter The Heart is a Lonely Hunter discussion


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Singer's relationship to his Greek companion...

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message 1: by Meika (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meika It's probably not a new idea, but it has occurred to me a few weeks after finishing the novel that maybe John Singer and Antonapoulos were lovers. And maybe social mores at the time McCullers wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter prevented her from making it explicit, so she chose to represent homosexuality as deafness/muteness instead. Essentially, deafness/muteness is a metaphor for something people didn't talk about (homosexuality). Just a thought...


message 2: by Darcy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darcy Yeah, I was wondering about this, too. Especially since the other characters all seem to have pretty fraught sexual experiences. Dr. Copeland is estranged from his wife because of his abuse, and his abuse seems to stem partly from his desire to be with her in place of studying Marx and Spinoza. Biff, too, seems to struggle with impotency. I think there's a moment in the book where he mentions that he can no longer lie with women. And Jake seems to be cut off from sex entirely; his height and his ideology have essentially severed him from most human contact.

At the very least, whether Singer and Antonapoulos are gay or not, I think the novel suggests that sex is simply not enough. All the characters have an overwhelming desire for human contact that sex doesn't seem to be able to satisfy. I think this is most obvious in Mick's case, but also really visible in John Singer.


Fran I read Singer as allegory for several things, including gay lover (his feelings were there, even if not in material fact, and his muteness standing in for can't talk about it in that society) and deity (everyone is sure he hears/understands, but he never responds and when his 'disciples' come together in person they can't talk to one another).


Diana I looked at some biographical material on McCullers, and she seems to have had a pretty complex relationship to sexuality, as well. Married, then divorced when both she and her husband were having homosexual affairs, then remarried to same husband...Once I read that, their relationship did seem full of love beyond a friendship. I also got the feeling that Biff had a pretty complex sexual identity, interested in girls (Mick), but also himself feminine (all sorts of discussions about him being a good mother, although never made sexual), or asexual, or a big mix.

Anyone have any idea if the connotations of Greek love were still the same when McCullers wrote the book?


Judy Diana, the connotations of Greek love were understood similarly for a long time, and before McCullers wrote this book. Who knows whether she happened to see it this way. Think of a book like Maurice by E.M. Forster in the early 1900s. The characters mention the ancient Greeks a lot in reference to homosexual relationships. They're higher class aristocrats though. I don't know if everyone saw it that way.


Cyril I certainly wondered about their relationship when I read the book. A few books I have read from the same time period mention homosexuality but never explore it in detail: Tender is the Night and the USA Trilogy come to mind. However it was also the end of a period when two single men living together would not have raised any questions, as opposed to a man and a woman.


message 7: by Erin (last edited Jun 05, 2013 07:45PM) (new)

Erin I had similar questions about Singer and Antonapoulos's relationship. The book does mention that they have two beds although those are a symbol of their personalities rather than an explanation of the two's relationship. Singer considered Antanopoulos as his only friend - and I wonder why even as all the other characters in the book sought him out and spent time with him.

He shunned and was shunned by the other deaf/mutes in the town where his friend was institutionalized (of course he had just heard of Antonapoulos' death). Even in that time period there were resources for the deaf he could have sought out.

Anyway thanks for the thread - even though my comment is six years late!


message 8: by Erin (new)

Erin Also just realized that Singer was set up as a character to have a million traits ascribed to him... every person in town understood him a different way.


Dovofthegalilee It's hard not to think that there were homosexual undertones in this book. Just movies of the day where a couple were seen going into a room and the camera blacked out and then opened in a new scene an adult audience knew the score. So it seems to be hinted at over and over again. Something that came to my mind that hasn't been said here is the fact that in certain circles the term Greek refers to sodomy. I won't go into that here but you can look it up.

The thing that struck me was the angle on black issues. I've read my share of black litt and never recall this book being referred too. Maybe because she was white? Interesting themes from a young girl growing up in the south.


Rictus There was most certainly homosexual undertones. I'm not sure if Singer understood this love or not. Or whether it was symbolic or realistic.

My personal opinion was that they were platonic but in love. There is a scene where Singer meets other deaf people but he's too distraught to sign to them. To me, that signifies that his suicide wasn't because of his loneliness of being deaf, but his love for Antonapoulos.

In her next book "Reflections in a Golden Eye", McCullers goes deep into the psyche of a closeted army major who is obviously gay, but doesn't understand it or himself. I can't help but relate him to Singer.


Diana I didn't know she wrote a next book. Was it completed and published while she was still alive?


Jasmine Wow, I didn't even think about Singer & Antonapoulos being in love when I read it. But, thinking back now it seems obvious.

I love the story & even thought the movie was good. I can't wait to read it again.


message 13: by Erin (new)

Erin I always wondered about her decision in include a secondary character of Greek heritage in an seemingly homogenous society. Thanks for the insight!


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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (other topics)
Tender Is the Night (other topics)