Carson McCullers

Let’s Discuss — The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

We cannot lift up. Our tongues rot in our mouths from lack of use. Our hearts grow empty and lose strength for our purpose (193)

We’re given a few slices of miserable life.  Everyone in town is searching for something–an idea, a feeling, or a connection within to verify their existence. What they seek is in other people, in certain routines or motions. But their reasons for being and sustaining remain both feeble and obscure.

Of all the characters, one in particular, Dr. Copeland, is the most vibrant. Not vibrant in persona, but in his dedication to verify his existence. Dr. Copeland, a black, educated man, living in a small Georgian town during the 1930s, is staunch in his convictions because he believes without them and men like him, the entire race is doomed to failure; destined to remain at the bottom. Dr. Copeland is also unique because unlike many black people in his community, he does not look to God for empowerment. On the contrary, he looks to worldly solutions.

Some of you young people here this morning may feel the need to be teachers or nurses or leaders of your race. But most of you will be denied. You will have to sell yourselves for a useless purpose in order to keep alive. You will be thrust back and defeated. The young chemist picks cotton. The young writer is unable to learn to read. The teacher is held in useless slavery at some ironing board (193)

John Singer is another character of interest. Strangely enough, Singer is an anomaly in a community of misfits. Not because he cannot hear or speak, but because he seems to be a person everyone else needs. People come to him and they talk. Not with him, just to him and sometimes at him. A provident figure, Singer offers the miserable souls that cross his path simple things to enliven them; food, money, music. Because they can be themselves around him, they value Singer’s company and are happier. And when he leaves they lapse back into desolation. McCullers captures the gloom of living in a small, southern town, where the heart is a lonely hunter.