When one thinks of good literature…beautiful writing…one can include the title, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by writer, Carson McCullers. At the young age of twenty-three, McCullers took on this project. I reflect back on myself at the age of twenty-three; young mother of one, struggling in a turbulent marriage and I can hardly imagine sitting down to write a powerfully inspiring novel. Carson McCullers did.
To be honest, I would never have picked up the novel, given the title. It sounds to be a bit of a cliche and looking back on my life and the significant events that mark transition, loss and accomplishment, I managed to steer clear of this one, up until now. It sat on my book shelf, having been picked up along the way, as a second hand cast off. Upon reading it a couple of weeks ago, the title now makes perfect sense and represents the content as much as any other could.
As one pours over the many reviews given to this book, it is difficult to articulate those qualities that make it so successful, just because there are so many. I decided to write about just a couple and to simply recommend the novel to those who haven’t read it yet or those who read it a very long time ago.
McCullers’ use of language is elegant and it is consistently supportive of character development from beginning to end. The reader comes to know, in the most intimate way, the characters who live ordinary/extraordinary lives in this small mill town in the south. As if under a microscope, we observe their motivations, thoughts and ‘hearts’ from their introduction to the very end.
From the book, Without a Map: A Memoir by Meredith Hall, this…
Oprah Winfrey offers a thorough book study section on her website for any of my readers who are considering taking on this one with a book club. I highly recommend. Included is a visual map and character links in order to explore, deeply, the motivations of each of the ‘lonely hearted’. You can find the schematic and links here.
Every one of these characters holds lessons for the reader and given Meredith Hall’s brave confession at the end of the quote shared earlier in this post, I will confess that I, too, am a lonely hunter. Now, don’t be worried about me. I think that there is much that is ‘unspoken’ in each of us. Yes, I have faith. Yes, I have a beautiful life, as do the written characters of this novel. However, there is loneliness, even in the most social and ‘connected’ beings. I think that McCullers’ characters are very brave and for a whole number of reasons. At completion of the novel, one is left with the revelation of one’s own courage to face the day-to-day issues of living.
I find John Singer to be central to the themes explored in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. We meet him, along with Spiros Antonapoulos, very early in the novel. The fact that he is mute, and that others rely on him for his good counsel, is essential to the theme development. I think that the fact that his advice is really only fleeting and that he is left to seemingly absorb the personal narratives of others, is very significant and sometimes painful.
Since reading this, with respect and care, I highly recommend the novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. You will find yourself or someone you love, written inside the pages.