[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”B001MUSQ80″ locale=”us” height=”222″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/310DQKc0n0L.jpg” width=”150″] [simpleazon-link asin=”B001MUSQ80″ locale=”us”]The Heart is a Lonely Hunter[/simpleazon-link] by Carson McCullers
My review: 4 of 5 stars
Imagine being so lonely, so isolated, that just having someone to listen would be the greatest gift you could imagine. In Carson McCullers’ classic story, each character struggles with a sense of isolation and a driving need for self-expression. The main character, John Singer, is deaf and mute, but he can read lips. Several people in the town take to talking to him on a regular basis simply because he is willing to listen. The irony that he cannot actually hear them and often does not understand them is lost upon the characters. In Lonely Hunter, the mood is that of desolation, sometimes despair, created by loneliness, poverty and racial tension. More to the forefront of the book than race issues however are the issues of the working class. The time is 1939 and most laborers were overworked and underpaid, if indeed any jobs were to be found at all. Socialism and Communism are leading topics of conversation as are Hitler’s rising to power and Fascism. I found SparkNotes helpful in clarifying the historical and political points of Lonely Hunter.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is not an easy read because the pace is slow. While this pace captures the feel of a desolate and quiet small southern town, it can make it difficult for the reader to stay connected. The narrator’s detached tone and the characters’ overall stoicism doesn’t help the reader connect either. Nevertheless, the first sentence, “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together” (p.3), clues the reader in to the fact that while Lonely Hunter may be a quiet story, it is no ordinary one. In fact the first chapter is so quiet that when a couple argues in the next chapter, the loudness is as acute as if the reader is listening to audio. The dialogue is authentic and the characters are richly developed. Rather than inward thoughts to reveal a character, McCullers dresses her characters in specific ways showing who they are through their choice of clothing, the state of their outfit, their mannerisms or personal habits. We become intimately knowledgeable about who these characters are through subtle yet specific details. Eventually, the desolation and isolation of these characters gives way to desperation. Despite the stoicism of many of the characters, they possess passion, anger, frustration and driving need. A need to be known. A need to be understood. A need to be heard. A need to express themselves. As a mute, John Singer, embodies all of these characteristics and reflects them in others. I recommend Lonely Hunter for readers who appreciate subtle stories about being an individual in a society that often cannot hear them. The pace, the setting, and the quiet nature of Lonely Hunter are similar to the book To Kill a Mockingbird. Fans of one will likely appreciate the other.
“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them” (p. 51).
“Resentment is the most precious flower of poverty” (p. 64).
“If he could not speak the whole long truth no other word would come to him” (p. 148).