Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

My first reaction to this book was confusion. Because the characters each live within separate worlds, it makes the story feel disjointed--eventhough they are all connected through a central character. I read that someone described the novel as several short stories strung together, and I definitely agree with that.

However, as the story moves forward, I felt like I was able to catch McCullers's vision. I realized that there's so much more going on than you can figure out at first glance. It definitley got my wheels turning . . . so much to think about. Here are just a couple things I picked out:

1. Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

It's ironic that each character is so isolated because they certainly have things in common. Each character felt the urgency of desperation: Mick and her music/youth, Copeland and racial relations, Jake and social justice, and Brannon and his search for meaning. Yet, when they all get together, friendships do not blossom, just the opposite--they feel disconnected and uncomfortable. +/-

Perhaps that was why Singer was so surprised that his four friends could find nothing in common when introduced together in a room. At the same time, I think for me it was significant that these people did have chances to reach out, but their differences prevented them from fully appreciating their similarities, or perhaps their inability to allow people into the "inside room," as Mick calls it. Their defenses were so well fortified, that no one could sneek past, except a few. I liked what Portia said to her father, explaining the reason that he could not get along with or love his children:

"You think out everything in your brain. While us rather talk from something in our hearts . . ."

But, is it too harsh to say that Mick, Jake, Dr. Copeland, and Biff were all lonely because they chose to be so? I think it is and isn't at the same time. That's what's so great about this book. It places before you a conundrum and dares you to solve it.

2. My Special Friend

I found Singer a very interesting character, and I still haven't quite figured out what meaning to draw from his role in the story. He was everything to everybody. He was the chameleon to their problems. He was a symbol of hope, understanding, and compassion. And yet, he had troubles that no one ever saw. To all, he was serene, the only one who could understand them, when in fact, he understood little but his own pain.

It's interesting, because it made me think of a friend I had once. I felt like she really understood me and I really understood her. I thought our friendship was something special. Like we had a meeting of the minds that rarely occurs. But of the time we spent together, we were rarely around other people, and as those situations arose, I realized that I wasn't her special friend, and she had never seen me that way. It was a bit of a barb, I have to admit. How interesting our assumptions can be, those alternate realities.

Overall, I loved the book. I think there are many things there that I have yet to uncover. I can understand why McCullers was so well received, because although I think her book is revolutionary for its time (even now), I think one can clearly see how she has taken our society and shown us its dirty secrets. I also enjoyed her writing style, once I got used to it.

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