Summary of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

In contemporary American literature, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is the first and most famous novel by writer Carson McCullers, first published in 1940 thanks to the work of the Houghton Mifflin publishing house.


About the novel

According to the critics, The Heart is a Lonely Heart isn´t only the first novel of the author Carson McCullers, but -according to some people’s opinion– it is also conceived as the best novel she has ever written, as well as the work that earned her fame, and the interest of readers in her literary production.

In this sense, the specialists in McMullers’ narrative praise how the story presented by this American writer manages to insert itself into the current of the Western novel of the mid-twentieth century, in which the nineteenth-century description, which was based on the landscape, and above all on the actions of the character, is gradually left behind to take an interest in the psychological dimension of the character.


Consequently, as in this novel by Carson McCullers, the character is also abolished, so that the idea of the person emerges in the pages of his work, whose feelings, sensation of oppression and abandonment in the world are the main theme. In this way, Carson McCullers creates for his novel characters who, because of their physical conditions, life decisions or sexual conditions, position themselves as borderline beings in the United States of the thirties, revealing how these people face each other in a society that is not very receptive, as well as the relationships and situations that are woven between them.

Some scholars of El corazón es un cazador solitario have come to compare the genius of Carson McCullers with that of Williamm Faulkner, perhaps because of this author’s mastery of being able to create a polyphonic novel, in which while anecdotes are told, which justify the existence of the book, in reality these are mere excuses for being able to stage the feelings of abandonment, helplessness and loneliness that overwhelm the human soul in the twentieth century.

Summary of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

With respect to the specific content of the story woven by Carson McCullers, in his book The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, it begins by telling in its first part the story of two deaf and dumb friends who lived in the state of Georgia, United States, during the 1930s.

According to how some interpret the story, the relationship of these two men, Jhon Singer and Spiros Antonapoulous is quite intimate, to the extent that some have suggested that more than friends, perhaps they were in a homosexual relationship. What is certain, beyond the speculations, in reference to a fact that is not entirely clear, is that both men accompany each other, since both, in addition to their condition of deaf-mute people, have lived together for many years.

However, shortly after the novel begins, the story begins to tell how Spiros begins to suffer from mental illness. For his part, his friend – and perhaps his partner – tries to help him, and tries to push him towards healing. Nevertheless, the illness ends up winning, and Jhon Singer, considered by the critics as the best achieved character of his author, has no choice but to resign himself to the fact that his friend has been robbed by madness.

After Spiros is hopelessly hospitalized in a Chicago psychiatric hospital, Singer decides that the best thing is to get moving, perhaps to forget and move away from the memories that hurt. That’s why he decides to move, in order to continue with his life, and meet new people. This situation ends up linking him to the other characters created by Carson McCullers, which represent characters who live in conflict with society and its prejudices.

As for the paradigms that the author deals with regarding the configuration of these four characters that will enter the life of Jhon Singer, to share with him the label of out sider, the following will be found: first, Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, despite his medical title is a black man, which in the thirties in the U.S. was a difficult social situation, by racism and segregation, in addition this character is characterized by his idealism and his intention to change the world.

Secondly, one could also speak of Jake Blount, who is presented as a troubled man, who has been suffering from alcoholism for years, which also gives him a position on the margins of structured society.

The other two characters who begin to share life with Singer will be Mick Kelly, a woman whose dream is to buy a piano, and finally surrender to the great love he feels for music. She is described as a woman with quite masculine gestures, which probably imply that she may also be a lesbian, a situation that also makes her stand on the edge of the social parameters of the time.

Finally, this quartet of friends is closed by Biff Brannon, who has his own food business, and who follows Blount’s footsteps on the road to alcoholism, perhaps for now less conflictive than this one. As for Brannon, the narrator distinguishes her analytical capacity, even though it can rather be interpreted as a tendency simply to observe, and not get involved in the issues.

Image: portrait of Carson McCullers, author of the novel El corazón es un cazador solitario / Source: wikipedia.org

Summary of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Source: Education  
October 31, 2019


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