The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was published in the spring of 1940, and was immediately a literary sensation. Carson McCullers was only twenty-three years old, had lived in a small southern town for most of her life, and this was her first novel. But she had read widely in Dostoevsky, Gogol, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Eugene O'Neill, and her knowledge and insight into her characters transcended her real experience. Mick Kelly, the adolescent at the center of this strange and brooding novel, is very much the girl McCullers had been in Georgia - passionately musical, and attracted to freaks and outcasts. Mick's spiritual kinship with John Singer, a deaf mute, and with other social misfits, provides a haunting look into the abyss encountered by human beings in their attempts at love. Years later, McCullers's friend Tennessee Williams wrote that she "owned the heart and the deep understanding of it, but in addition she had that 'tongue of angels' that gave her power to sing of it, to make of it an anthem."
Amazingly, Carson McCullers wrote THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER when she was only 23 years old--her first book. It was an immediate success and is widely considered to be her greatest novel. McCullers tells the story of young Mick Kelly, a 12-year-old girl growing up during the Great Depression. Mick is a gifted pianist--as was McCullers--who longs to escape her dreary Georgia town and find a career in music. In her alienation from her surroundings, she finds comfort in befriending a deaf-mute, John Singer, who lives in her family's boarding house. The ironically named Singer is devastated when his only real friend--another deaf-mute--goes mad and is institutionalized. As Mick and several other lonely townspeople tell Singer their troubles, they find in him a refuge from the pain of their isolation, never understanding that Singer himself is slowly giving in to the despair that will kill him. McCullers writes about these lost and melancholy people with deep compassion and a keen awareness of racial and class tensions, but also with appreciation for the universal human need to seek out beauty and decency wherever they can be found.
- Fiction + Literature Themes, Fiction + Literature Genres
- General, Types of Characters, Settings, Peoples + Cultures, Human Qualities + Behavior, Conflicts + Dualities, Literary Genres + Types of Novels
- May 1, 1993
- May 1, 1993
- Carson McCullers