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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers

With its profound sense of moral isolation and its sensitive glimpses into the inner lives of lonely people, [this] is considered McCullers' finest work. The focus of the work is on John Singer, a deaf-mute in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s, and on his effect on the people who confide in him. When Singer's mute Greek companion of 10 years goes insane, Singer is left alone and isolated. He takes a room with the Kelly family, where he is visited by the town's misfits, who turn to him for understanding but have no knowledge of his inner life. When Singer discovers that his Greek friend has died, he realizes that he can communicate with no one and shoots himself. The author established her reputation with the novel, which was her first.

Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (1 of 26), Read 69 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 10:20 PM Is anyone else reading this right now? I know a few had mentioned they would. I initially read this in high school, some 25+ years ago. My only vague memory was of Mr. Singer, the deaf-mute. I'll say now that this is the best book I've read all year. Even though the sadness seemed overwhelming at times, I could not refrain from pressing ahead and reading on. The characters were all so vital--so real to me. Anyone else ready to discuss it? Anne
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (2 of 26), Read 63 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 10:24 PM Hey, Anne! I'm going to start this one as soon as I finish 'Being Dead.' I already have the book, so give me a few days, and I'll be ready to start discussing it with you. I've been just itching to get to it, and I'm so glad you started this thread. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (3 of 26), Read 62 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 12, 2002 10:39 PM Ooh, I love this novel...
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (4 of 26), Read 55 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 15, 2002 01:58 PM Anne, I've been sitting on my back porch, in our beautiful 80 degree weather, reading this novel. The writing is so gorgeous, and leaves me dumb struck to think she was only 23 when she wrote this. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (5 of 26), Read 50 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 05:10 PM Anne, I've just started reading this so hopefully, I'll be able to join in the discussion. Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (6 of 26), Read 49 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 08:08 PM Beej, I sat out in the sun last week to read, too! To be so young and have such an understanding of human nature...amazing, isn't it? Ee Lin, I'm glad you're joining us! Anne
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (7 of 26), Read 53 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 09:02 PM Anne and Ee Lin, After reading a brief bio on McCullers, nothing would surprise me about her! Here's a link to an essay on McCullers.. it's not very well written, but it says it all.. http://www.carson-mccullers.com/html/confusion.html Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (8 of 26), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Thursday, April 18, 2002 04:21 PM Thanks Anne and Beej. I'm progressing a little slowly, not because of a lack of interest, but just having difficulty getting chunks of time for uninterrupted reading. You two plow on ahead and I'll catch up when I can. Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (9 of 26), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 03:08 PM Oh, Ee Lin! I was so looking forward to your input! Is anyone else reading this? There's a lot I was hoping to talk about with this one. Anne, I love McCullers' portrayal of the blacks, especially Doctor Copeland and Portia. I'm reminded of Faulkner in this regard. In fact, Portia very much reminds me of a young Dilcey. From what I've read on the net about McCullers, it seems to me the character of Mick is more than a bit autobiographical. I just love this book. It's one of those stories that replays in your head all through the day. I'm still trying to figure out how anybody so young could possibly have, not only such a grasp on the English language..I think the writing is absolutely flawless.., but also such incredible insight into human nature. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (10 of 26), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Friday, April 19, 2002 04:17 PM I was surprised by how much emotion this 23 year old writer pulled out of me. She first broke my heart with the Bubber/Baby Wilson scene. From then on, my heart was not safe. I, like all the characters in the book, was drawn to Mr. Singer. He knew everything about everyone, yet no one knew him at all. They thought they did, but they had done all the talking and no asking. Poor guy. The scene where he wandered into the bar after finding out about Anatopoulus, and trying to communicate with the other deaf-mutes had me in tears. This book is so full of wonderful characters and twists of plots. She certainly had me believing each of her characters. There is so much here to discuss...Are you finished yet, Beej? Anne
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (11 of 26), Read 47 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002 01:01 PM Oh, Anne...no, I'm not. I'm TRYING to finish it! But it seems every single time, without fail, that I sit down with this book, one of the kids comes out with the "Maaaaaaaaa!" war whoop! But, I have managed to read about 2/3rds of it, and I agree. There's lots discuss. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (12 of 26), Read 35 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Sunday, April 21, 2002 05:01 PM Hi Beej and Anne, I'm trying to read as fast as I can. :-) Just about halfway through, right after the Bubber/Baby Wilson episode. I felt so sorry for Bubber. Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (13 of 26), Read 34 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 08:33 AM Oh, Ee Lin, wasn't that just heartbreaking? Poor Bubber. I got so emotionally involved when Mick ran her mouth to that child about how he was going to go to jail, that my hands just clenched with the desire to slap that girl! Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (14 of 26), Read 38 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 09:21 AM I want to add..maybe to spur others on to reading this (only because it's just such a tremendously good novel), that this will probably rank with the all time great reads of my life. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (15 of 26), Read 29 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 05:41 PM I've just finished this book and to be honest I'm not quite sure what to make of it. On the one hand, I liked it well enough to read the entire thing. But I think that I don't 'get' it. What was McCullers trying to convey? Was she trying to show us how lonely these people were? Singer, because his one friend, Anatopoulos, had been moved to an asylum, and the others' company gave him some comfort. The others (Biff, Jake, the doctor and Mick), who felt marginalised but thought that Singer was their friend because he was the only one who didn't talk back and protest and he always had a sympathetic face? For me, the saddest bit in the story was the beginning when Anatopoulos's cousin had him committed and how heart-broken Singer was. It seemed as if Singer lived only for those times when he could see his friend again, and how difficult it must have been to be unable to communicate with him as he used to. Strangely, Anatopoulos seemed to fulfill the same role for Singer as Singer did for the others. In the asylum, Anatopoulos hardly spoke and didn't seem to understand Singer and yet Singer seemed to feel comforted despite that. And Mick, at the end, it just seemed that all her dreams got buried under the realities of her life. It was sad that Mick who had so many aspirations in the beginning seemed to be on the same road that Dr Copeland and Jake Blount had taken. Beej, yes, when Mick started saying that she would teach Bubber, I just thought, nonononononono! Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (16 of 26), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 10:33 PM I don't know if they were really lonely or simply victims of a self imposed isolation. When you think about it, there was very little personal interaction, which is why, I think, they were all drawn to Mr. Singer..they each were able to talk to him without any real interaction with him. With the single exception of Portia, not one of these characters lived in the present. They were all overly involved with the past or the future, it seemed to me. Everything Mick did was done with an eye on the future. Mr. Brannon was so involved in the past that he wore his deceased spouse's perfume. Even Mr. Singer lived in the past with his memories of Antonapoulos and in the future with his anticipation in visiting him. I'm not certain what the title means, but I suspect it means that in hunting for our own happiness, we have to go it alone. Nobody is going to find it for us. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (17 of 26), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 05:22 PM Beej, You make very good points! You're right, all four of them were fixated with the past or the future. And they could talk to Singer without him arguing back. Remember when Jake Blount and Dr Copeland tried to talk to each other? I felt that they were really talking about the same thing but each refused to see the common ground that they shared and ended up not being able to build a friendship. Jake felt this, I think, but by the time he tried to do something about it, it was too late. I thought the others were drawn to Singer because he seemed compassionate and as Anne said, they each projected the qualities they desired in a friend on to Singer. Loved your point about the heart hunting for happiness on its own. I also felt it conveyed the longing of the heart for a boon companion. Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (18 of 26), Read 25 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 09:25 PM "I also felt it conveyed the longing of the heart for a boon companion." Ee Lin, I think you're right. Each of these characters desperately longed for someone to accompany him or her down the path toward attainment of some sort of higher purpose. And, isn't it odd that the one person they were most drawn to was someone who never expressed any sharing of ideas? So, again, I think you're right..they saw Singer as a sounding board. He couldn't argue or say they were wrong. He, in affect, simply validated their agendas with his silence. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (19 of 26), Read 21 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 12:46 PM I am about half way through this, I finally found my copy in the mess that are my books...a book shlef might help! Just going to catch up on this thread a little later today. It really is a wonderful book...so well written. Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (20 of 26), Read 23 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 05:04 PM Beej, Candy, Anne, Could any of you figure out Biff Brannon? He never seemed to say very much to Singer. He just seemed to watch in silence. I never quite figured out what he was watching or waiting for. Beej - yes, Singer was seen as a silent sounding board. When Jake and Dr Copeland tried to express their ideas with anybody else, they just seemed to end up in quarrels or fights. Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (21 of 26), Read 23 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, April 25, 2002 09:56 PM Ee Lin, Good question. I know I felt uncomfortable with this character, but couldn't figure out why, except he seemed to have some pretty bizarre feelings for Mick. I think Biff lived in a fantasy world. We know he was a good man just by his charity towards Jake, but basically I thought of him as pretty much out in la-la-land. I really believe this character has a lot of depth that I'm missing. I'm curious as to what Anne and Candy think. You know what I really loved about this book..outside of the incredibly beautiful writing? I loved how McCullers wrote each character from a humanistic point of view; there was no judgement..not a one was made to be bad or evil or stupid; there was no right or wrong with her characters. No black and white personalities, but just variations of shades of gray. No character was outrageously and predominately stereotyped as to race. They were all simply, and beautifully, human. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (22 of 26), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 06:30 AM I thought Biff had some sexual feelings for Mick, near the beginning of the book. I found it disturbing, but he also seemed to find it disturbing... The way this is written, I felt nervous as if tension was building up right from the start. Something about the matter-of-fact description of Singer and A's friendship. I agree, this book was written with out judgement on each character... Just a minute, having posting troubles... "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (23 of 26), Read 17 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 04:32 PM Biff gave me the creeps a bit. Mick felt the same. But he seemed to be a good soul, over all. He sure put up with Jake when he could have easily sent him away. Wearing his dead wife's perfume was just a little over the top for me, though... Anne
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (24 of 26), Read 16 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, April 26, 2002 08:10 PM Wasn't it odd, though, that Biff's affections for Mick went away when she got that job? The town they lived in seemed so stifling, so containing. The only one who seemed to be able to really try to fulfill his dreams was Harry. And that was only because he left town. For some reason, the character who broke my heart was Dr. Copeland. That entire scene where he was thrown in jail touched me more than any other scene in the book. I picked up a biography of McCullers, and was surprised to read, on the first page, that McCullers was immediately compared to Faulkner upon publication of this first novel! I had posted that I noticed a resemblance in one of my earlier posts. But, I had no idea this comparison had been made before. The bio also said that when this book was first published, the literary world was absolutely stunned that someone so young could pen a book with this sort of depth..In other words, everything we've been saying here, is what has always been said about McCullers, since her very first novel. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (25 of 26), Read 16 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Saturday, April 27, 2002 04:59 AM I thought I was misinterpreting Biff's feelings for Mick. But I'm glad to see my perceptions weren't wrong. It was unsettling to read about Biff's feelings for Mick. But at least he seemed to realise that they weren't quite right and he didn't turn his thoughts into action. Agree about all the characters being human. I did think that they were very moody, though. All of the characters seemed to dwell on their troubles and feelings a lot and they always seemed to be looking for something that they just couldn't find. Ee Lin
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (26 of 26), Read 8 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Janet Mego vsjego@cs.com Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002 12:31 PM So glad to discover this thread after being too exhausted or lazy or something lately to climb the stairs to the computer much. McCullers is an old favorite of mine. I discovered her at 14--my mom gave me this book, and I went on to read everything she'd written and later, to write a term paper (not very good) on McCullers's characters and the aspects of herself she inserts into many of them. I think Mick is definitely one of these--she reflects the author's own romantic yearning for maturity, acceptance into society, and passion. I have read this one and THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, my favorite, several times, but I still get Mick and Frankie, the heroine of MOTW, confused. Note the male names: McCullers was bisexual, or so the biographies imply, and very frank about her own crushes on various other female writers. I think one of these was Katherine Anne Porter, who simply stepped over McCullers and walked away one day as the latter lay across the threshold of Porter's room at Yaddo. McCullers was proclaiming her love for Porter dramatically as Porter made her dignified exit. This unabashed frankness makes its way into her writing sans affected drama, I think, and makes her the unique talent that she is. Loneliness, yearning for acceptance, and those qualities which make one "different" from the "norm" are her focus. I have too much going on to reread THIALH, and my last reading was too long ago to really be able to discuss this one, but I hope we can do MEMBER or BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE sometime--I've reread these two recently enough to maybe do them justice. THere is a great old movie of THIALH, btw. Janet
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (27 of 34), Read 15 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 01:51 PM Many thoughts here as I read all these posts. One is the things we have said about Singer. It seems to me he could represent "god" in this novel. He knows whats going on as people talk or confide in him, he doesn't speak, and he is often described in the novel as having a lingering subtle smile...(like a Mona Lisa or a Buddha.) I came to this novel very young after seeing the movie version starring Alan Arkin. Arkin was a acting god for me as I grew up I would seek out anything he was in. He plays Singer and was nominated for an Academy Award for this role( also for in The Russians Are Coming). He also was in Catch 22. I was wondering if any of McCullers books have been discussed or nominated forClassics Corner reads? (p.s. Janet, have you ever read Perfume? I think it's up your gothic alley, since you like Rices Witching Hour) Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (28 of 34), Read 11 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:18 PM Here are two sections that I thought were interesting...and they contrast/or line up these two characters early in the story Jake Blount and Doctor Coleman: "Mick went to the stove and filled her plate a second time. Portia's voice was going up and down like a song, and nothing could stop her now. 'I doesn't see my Father much-maybe once a week-but I done a lot of thinking about him. I feels sorrier for him than anybody I knows. I expect he done read more books than any white man in this town. He done read more books and he done worried about more things. He full of books and worrying. He done lost God and turned his back to religion. All his troubles come down to just that.' " Chapter 3. "Singer pushed the wine toward his guest. Jake drank from the bottle and rubbed the top of his head. 'You see, its like I'm two people. One of me is an educated man. I been in some of the biggest libraries in the country. I read. I read all the time. I read books that tell the pure honest truth. Over there in my suitcase I have books by Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen and such writers as them. I read them over and over, and the more I study the madder I get. I know every word printed on every page. To begin I like words. Dialectic materilism-Jesuitical prevarcation-Jake rolled the syllables in his mouth with loving solemnity-teleological propensity.' The mute wiped his forehead with a neatly folded handkerchief. 'But what I'm getting at is this. When a person KNOWS and can't make the others understand, what does he do?' " Chapter 4 And then in Chapter 5 we learn how Dr. Copeland feels the same way as he talks to Portia. He says how he tried to make his children(one called Karl Marx) learn about the truth. Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (29 of 34), Read 13 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:19 PM Candy, I thought of that, too...that Singer represented God..also, they were so emotionally isolated and I was struck by the irony that their 'god,' a deaf mute, was probably the most isolated of them all; even the person he loved the most in the world abetted this isolation, because he was incapable of truly understanding and relating to the love Singer felt for him. Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (30 of 34), Read 12 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:30 PM Yeah, it seems like so many of the characters are more interested in their own world views being accepted and imposed than on "listening" and finding out from each other... "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (31 of 34), Read 11 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:34 PM Speaking of irony, doesn't it seem odd that a novelist would have two such unhappy characters as Jake and Dr. C showing how their unhappiness seems to come from reading. (Something Steve has noted many times here at CR, that people who read are frustrated people heh heh.) See quotes in my post #28. "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (32 of 34), Read 10 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 03:39 PM Yep, Singer was only a mirror, that's all he was to these people. But, when you really think about it, we are all mirrors to a certain extent. this was just a gross exaggeration of that. Did Dr. Copeland remind anybody else of Martin Luther King? Especially with his desire to march to Washington DC? Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (33 of 34), Read 12 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 05:23 PM Ah here is this: "Now she felt good. She whispered some words out loud:'Lord forgiveth me, for I Knoweth not what I do.' Why did she think that? Everybody in the past few years knew there wasn't any real God. When she thought of what she used to imagine was God she could only see Mister Singer with a long white sheet around him. God was silent-maybe that was why she was reminded. She said the words again, just as she would speak them to Mister Singer:'Lord forgiveth me, for I knoweth not what I do.' " "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (34 of 34), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, April 29, 2002 06:24 PM Maybe she said that because no matter what people might say, they realize somewhere deep in their hearts, they do not know for absolutely certain that there is no God. They may believe that, but they do not know it. (And I've been wanting to say that for two weeks now. Amen.) Beej
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (35 of 35), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 10:43 AM Well, you are absolutely correct about that Beej, there is NO proof there is no God. People who say they are atheist or not believers in God, have based their opinion/experience on exactly the same kinds of logic/emotion/experience as people who believe in God. Faith. I've been re-reading several parts of this book. It is clear that to a few of the people in this town, Singer is God to them, or maybe it is more respectful to say "a god" to them. A lot of the function of this story is to show how people apply their own morality and personality and belief systems onto God. Remember the part where we hear about the various folks who were Jewish, thought Singer was Jewish, the Turk who spoke to him believed Singer was Turkish. We also saw that Singer didn't "follow" much of the monologues he listened to, not understanding the point of "music" for Mick, or "politics" for Blount. He visited with people not because of their personalities or belief systems, he didn't seem to measure them by those traits. When he kills himself, its as if God isn't interested in the people...is the novel saying not only have we abandoned God, but God has abandoned us? Or do we expect something from God that is not what God is interested in? I don't know... What really interests me is the kind of layers...there is a layer to Singer that is God, and I think the reader is supposed to consider him God too. The other layers are all the levels of gender in characters. At first I felt put off of Biff because he seemed to have pervy thoughts about Mick, maybe even Baby. I think it wasn't just a sexual thing, I think I misunderstood that. In many ways Biff is the "hero" of the story because he simply keeps the cafe open FOR people. Without understanding, but out of a charitable motive. He is really acting in a loving way in the town. Another reason I think Biff was not merely pervy was that he saw himself as wishing he could be a "mother". His wearing of perfume was lke cross-dressing. Even the way he decorated his bedroom after his wife died was a kind of cross-dressing. I believe this was indicating that he was trying to be more emotional, or WAS more emotional than we think of a general mans role in society. He was being "feminine" to be more caring and loving... There were a number of cross-dressing references in this novel. We find that Doctor Copeland by the time he was moving closer to his family(yes because of his illness) was wearing a "shawl". Mick wore shorts and dressed and acted like a "boy". By the time she dressed just as a woman-she seemed more cut off from her soul, and other people, her brothers, music and her passions. I believe in the novel we are seeing that the boundaries between the sexes are like the boundaries set up between religions and nationalities and social class. The novel seems to say these are social constructs, not from nature or from God, but we make them, and we hold them as forces to keep us apart from each other and keep a distance and to keep up hate. I think the novel suggests that these social constructs prevent us from loving each other and being a helpful loving community. And our social constructs force fed on God keep us from being a helpful community too. Both our belief in a particular God and our disbelief in any God keep us from being a loving community...that these are postures just like our politics and our sex designated clothes. Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (30 of 33), Read 17 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002 04:14 PM "(Biff)He laid his finger on the side of his nose and cocked his head to one side. Mick had grown so much in the past year that soon she would be taller than he was. She was dressed in the red sweater and blue pleated skirt she had worn every day since school started. Now the pleats had come out and the hem dragged loose around her sharp, jutting knees. She was at the age when she looked as much like an overgrown boy as a girl. And on that subject why was it that the smartest people mostly missed that point? By nature all people are of both sexes. So that marriage and the bed is not all by any means. The proof? Real youth and old age. Because often old men's voices grow high and reedy and they take on a mincing walk. And old women sometimes grow fat and their voices get rough and deep and they grow dark little mustaches. And he even proved it himself-the part of him that sometimes almost wished he was a mother and that Mick and Baby were his kids." NEAR the ending... "The black, starlit sky seemed close to the earth. He strolled along the sidewalk, pausing once to knock an orange peel into the gutter with the side of his foot. At the far end of the next block two men, small from the distance and motionless, stood arm and arm together. No one else could be seen. His place was the only store on all the street with an open door and lights inside. "And why? What was the reason for keeping the place open all through the night when every other cafe in the town was closed? He was often asked that question and could never speak the answer out in words. Not money.Sometimes a party would come for beer and scrambled eggs and spend five or ten dollars. But that was rare. Mostly they came one at a time and ordered little and stayed long. And on some nights, between the hours of twelve and five o'clock, not a customer would enter. There was no profit in it-that was plain. "But he would never close up for the night-not as long as he stayed in the business. Night was the time. There were those he would never have seen otherwise. A few came regularly several times a week. Others had come into the place only once, had drunk a Coco-Cola, and never returned. "Biff folded hs arms across his chest and walked more slowly. Inside the arc of the street light his shadow showed angular and black. The peaceful silence of the night settled in him. These were the hours for rest and meditation. Maybe that was why he stayed downstairs and did not sleep. With a quick glance he scanned the empty street and went inside." I believe we are shown how Biff isn't exactly a perv...but he has feelings for the children and it is a maternal feeling...this twists how we first see Biff's feelings for Baby and Mick. Then as he thinks about the cafe open all night I think we see somethign else. He understands that the heart is a lonely hunter and he is in a way...if Singer is "god" then Biff is a "shephard" a caretaker...his cafe becomes the "church". We also learn that he still puzzles over WHO Singer was and this is a riddle for him. And we also find out that he was a kid of shephard for Singer in that he paid for the funeral. the ending... "The silence in the room was deep as the night itself. Biff stood transfixed, lost in his meditations. Then suddenly he felt a quickening in him. His heart turned and he leaned his back against the counter for support. For in a swift radiance of illumination he saw a glimpse of human struggle and valor. Of the endless fluid passage of humanity through endless time. And of those who labor and of those who-one word-love. His soul expanded. But for a moment only. For in him he felt a warning, a shaft of terror. Between the two worlds he was suspended. He saw that he was looking at his own face in the counter glass before him. Sweat glistened on his temples and his face was contorted. One eye was opened wider than the other. The left eye delved narrowly into the past while the right gazed wide and affrighted into a future of blackness, error and ruin. And he was suspended between radiance and darkness. Between bitter irony and faith. Sharply he looked away. 'Louis!' he called. 'Louis!Louis!' "Again there was no answer. But, motherofgod, was he a sensible man or was he not? And how could this terro throttle him like this when he didn't even know what caused it? And would he just stand here like a jittery ninny or would he pull himself together and be reasonable? For after all WAS he a sensible man or was he not? Biff wet his handkerchief beneath the water tap and patted down his drawn, tense face. Somehow he remembered that the awning had not yet been raised. As he went to the door his walk ganed steadiness. And when at last he was inside again he composed himself soberly to await the morning sun." "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (31 of 33), Read 18 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002 04:19 PM Beej, perhaps "hero" wasn't an apt noun for Biff...but what about anti-hero? I see him as a compassionate human and he seems to have some will to action, even if its only that he has a community spot for people to "hunt" for their hearts in the dark, lonely hours... ???? Candy "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (32 of 33), Read 16 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002 04:22 PM I am not sur if I have the energy to pull out Madame Bovary and find the end passages that describe Charles Bovary. But what comes to mind is the word "sensible". I remember in the thread about Madame Bovary that many readers thought Emma a "ninny" and Charles "sensible"...read boring. "Instead you are encountering an abstraction of the real world, of the kind you would find in traditional literature where invention triumphs over realism." Jim Crace
Topic: THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER--McCULLERS (33 of 33), Read 15 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, May 08, 2002 07:52 PM Candy, re: Charles Bovary and Biff. Yes, I see what you're saying! They were both a 'quiet hub,' so to speak. The action went on around them, yet they were both helpless to do anything about any of it. Yes. Thanks. Those passages you quoted are so exquisite. To think, McCullers was merely 22 years old when she wrote them. I think a lot of the melding of genders within the character of Biff, had much, much to do with the fact that as McCullers was writing this book, she was also discovering her own bisexuality..she believed all humans were not purely one gender or another, but a true and, to her way of thinking, more honest combination of the two. Beej

 

 
 

 
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