Mccullers Essay, Research Paper
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is a novel set in a small Southern town
in the late 1930’s. McCullers writes about characters who are lonely and rejected. their
lives intertwine in a search for friendship and understanding. Many of the characters have
a need to be understood, however; none of them ever truly are.
One of the characters in the novel, Jake Blount, searches for a sympathetic ear. He
appears in the New York Cafe drunk and rowdy talking to everyone and no one. He talks
so much the “words came out of his throat like a cataract” (13). He constantly talks to
everyone hoping someone will take the time to really listen and understand. His words
come out “as though a dam inside him has broken” (20). Ironically, the one he thinks
understands him is a deaf-mute named John Singer. He tells Singer, “You’re the only one
in this town who catches what I mean . . . because I know you understand the things I
want to mean” (59). Jake Blount just assumes Singer understands him. Singer never gives
him reason to believe otherwise. Nevertheless, Singer writes about Blount in a letter to
Antonapoulos, “The one with the mustache I think is crazy” (183). He also writes
Antonapoulos that Blount thinks “he and I have a secret together but I do not know what
it is” (183). Jake Blount thinks Singer understands him when he actually does not.
Another character searching for understanding is Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland.
Dr. Copeland is a black doctor with ideas that on one seems to understand regardless of
how hard he tries to make them comprehend. His daughter, Portia, says that when she was
a girl, he was “all the time studying by hisself” (41). Dr. Copeland is well educated and
this separates him from the rest of his family. They do not understand why he has always
felt the need to educate them. At a Christmas party, Dr. Copeland talks to the guests
about Karl Marx and what he stood for. When he asks if everyone understands, they reply
that they do. This makes him wonder if they are answering this way just to please him. He
eventually turns to Mr. Singer for understanding. Dr. Copeland thinks Mr. Singer is wise
and understands “the strong true purpose in a way that other white men could not” (114).
Mr. Singer admits in a letter to Antonapoulos that he in fact does not understand.
John Singer is another character who feels a need for understanding. He is a
deaf-mute that everyone else seems to turn to when they need to vent their feelings. Singer
does not communicate often unless by pen. He usually watches what everyone else has to
say. Singer is in need of understanding just as much as the other characters but has no one
with whom he can share his feelings. His deaf-mute friend, Antonapoulos, seems to be the
only person who he can really “talk” to even though he does not quite comprehend
everything Singer tells him. Singer and Antonapoulos have been friends for ten years and
although Antonapoulos does not attempt to communicate with Singer unless he is hungry
or sleepy, Singer continues to tell him everything that is on his mind. Singer assumes an
understanding in Antonapoulos. In his letter to Antonapoulos Singer tells him, “I do not
understand, so I write it to you because I think you will understand” (184). He also tells
Antonapoulos that he wants to see him because “I am not meant to be alone and without
you who understand” (185).
McCullers’ characters have the need to be understood. Most think they find
understanding in Singer, a deaf-mute who really understands nothing. Singer thinks the
only one he can communicate with is Antonapoulos, his deaf-mute friend who is usually
interested in everything but what Singer has to say. Throughout the novel, these
characters search for something to fill their feelings of loneliness and rejection but in the
end never find it.