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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Key Quotes

Part Three, Chapters 1–4

Key Facts

This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the daytime and by herself at night. In the hot sun and in the dark with all the plans and feelings. This music was her—the real plain her...This music did not take a long time or a short time. It did not have anything to do with time going by at all. She sat with her arms around her legs, biting her salty knee very hard. The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen... Now that it was over there was only her heart beating like a rabbit and this terrible hurt.

This passage is taken from the Part Two, Chapter 1, which focuses on Mick Kelly. This is the chapter in which she throws a party at her house and in which, later that night after all her guests have left, she goes for a walk and sits under the window of a rich house to listen to the music from their radio. For the first time in her life, Mick hears a symphony by Beethoven. This passage explains her reaction to the music, first as she hears it and then after it ends. There is nothing else in the story that affects Mick the way this music does; it is almost as though she is having a religious epiphany. The intensity of her reaction indicates her intensity and intelligence as a person and highlights the extent of the passion she feels about music. Mick loves it so much that after it ends, she experiences the absence as a physical "hurt."

"But say a man does know. He sees the world as it is and he looks back thousands of years to see how it all come about. He watches the slow agglutination of capital and power and he sees its pinnacle today. He sees America as a crazy house... He sees a whole damn army of unemployed and billions of dollars and thousands of miles of land wasted... He sees how when people suffer just so much they get mean and ugly and something dies in them. But the main thing he sees is that the whole system of the world is built on a lie. And although it's as plain as the shining sun—the don't-knows have lived with that lie so long they just can't see it."

This quote is taken from Part Two, from a chapter narrated from Jake Blount's point of view. Jake is talking to John Singer about the evils of capitalism because he thinks that Singer is someone who shares his passion for socialism. However, unlike Dr. Copeland, Blount thinks that the way to remedy all of these problems is to hold strikes and revolts to get pay raises and to raise people's awareness of the injustice under which they live. A worker's resistance to or fear of revolt baffles Jake, who assumes that any worker who would deliberately reject active social protest is also necessarily rejecting his own means of salvation.

"Our pride must be strong, for we know the value of the human mind and soul. We must teach our children. We must sacrifice so that they may earn the dignity of study and wisdom. For the time will come. The time will come when the riches in us will not be held in scorn and contempt. The time will come when we will be allowed to serve. When we will labor and our labor will not be wasted. And our mission is to await this time with strength and faith."

This quote is taken from Part Two, Chapter 6, from the speech Dr. Copeland gives at his Christmas party. This quote demonstrates at once the eloquence of Dr. Copeland's speech and the wisdom of the message he attempts to impart to his people. After he makes this speech, he is overcome with joy, for nothing feels better to him than to speak to his people about how they may achieve justice, and to feel that his advice is being heard. After Dr. Copeland makes the speech, everyone applauds, and he is happy. However, he feels so strongly about his beliefs and is so anxious to know that someone is really listening that soon after the guests leave, he wonders if any of them will remember what he said. The possibility that many may not makes him anxious and restless again.

"You remember the four people I told you about when I was there... They are all very busy people. In fact they are so busy that it will be hard for you to picture them. I do not mean that they work at their jobs all day and night but that they have much business in their minds always that does not let them rest...the New York Café owner is different. He watches. The others all have something they hate. And they all have something they love more than eating or sleeping or wine or friendly company. That is why they are always so busy."

This quotation is taken from Part Two, Chapter 7, from the letter John Singer writes to Spiros Antonapoulos. This excerpt demonstrates the simple manner in which Singer would likely speak if he were able. Using simple words and phrases, he tells his friend about all of his visitors. This introductory paragraph is especially insightful. It is notable that Singer does not say that he feels any particular connection to any of the four; in fact, he says later in the letter that he does not even understand all of what Jake Blount and Dr. Copeland say to him, and that their anger frightens him. Singer says that it is nice to see the others, however, because they distract him from thinking about Antonapoulos's absence. It is clear that all of Singer's devotion is aimed solely at his absent friend, and that he does not—contrary to the beliefs of his four visitors—have any special empathy or understanding of any of their passions.

"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 of 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... he was suspended between radiance and darkness. Between bitter irony and faith."

This quote is taken from the end of Part Three, Chapter 4—the last chapter of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The passage is narrated from Biff Brannon's point of view. Biff's epiphany is unique in the novel; no other character experiences a sudden insight as to what the meaning of life may be. This passage also demonstrates McCullers's lyrical capabilities: the language is much like poetry. At the end of the novel, despite all the depressing events and failed hopes and dreams we have witnessed, the message McCullers leaves with us is an uplifting one. She ends with the assertion that, even though human love may often be misguided, the wondrous fact that humans are capable of loving and believing in others makes life worth living in all its strange and difficult variation.

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