The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Part Two, Chapter 7
This chapter is told from John Singer's point of view. The current winter is one of the coldest ever recorded. Singer begins to go out for long walks again as he used to do during the first months when Antonapoulos was gone. Many people now stop Singer on his walks because all sorts of rumors have started about him in the town.
During the first few months after Antonapoulos left Singer primarily remembered the bad things about his friend. In one incident in particular, the two of them had another deaf-mute, a skinny man named Carl, over for dinner and drinks. Antonapoulos suddenly got angry with Carl and kicked him out because he mistakenly thought that Carl drank all of the gin, even though it was Antonapoulos himself who had done so.
As the months go by, however, Singer thinks more and more of the Antonapoulos whom nobody knew but him—the Antonapoulos who seemed wise and good. Singer also thinks of the words that Mick, Dr. Copeland, and Jake Blount say to him, and of the gestures of Biff Brannon. The four people have been coming to his room regularly for more than seven months. Singer enjoys their company because they distract him from thinking of Antonapoulos. However, Singer misses speaking with his hands; they feel restless all the time, so he often forces them into his pockets.
Singer mails Antonapoulos a large box of presents for Christmas. He also gives presents to all four of his visitors and to Mrs. Kelly. For all of the visitors together he buys a radio and puts it in his room for them to listen to. Jake and Mick listen to it, and Mick comes in and listens even when Singer is not home. Singer has never seen someone listen as Mick listens; she seems to "listen all over," and sometimes the music makes her cry.
One night, by coincidence, all four people—Mick, Dr. Copeland, Blount, and Biff—show up in Singer's room at the same time to talk to him. Dr. Copeland does not sit down, and the others seem awkward and do not know what to say, which puzzles Singer because each of them always has so much to say to him when each is alone. This time, however, they all merely speak about the weather for a while and then all got up to leave at the same time. Singer decides to write to Antonapoulos about it that night, even though he never mails the letter.
Singer goes down to the jewelry shop so he can finish carving a monogram on the center of a silver platter before he writes the letter. He writes to Antonapoulos how much he misses him and how he wishes he were there so they could go to an upcoming deaf-mute convention together. Then Singer writes at some length about the four people who come to visit him. He says that all of them, save Biff, have something that they hate and something that they love above all other things, and that these things keep their minds busy night and day.
Singer writes that he thinks Jake is a little crazy because of his erratic behavior and language and the huge amount that he drinks. Singer likes it when Mick comes to see him; he mentions that she comes all the time now that he has a radio. Singer writes that Dr. Copeland works more than anyone he has ever seen, but that sometimes he is frightening because his eyes are so hot and bright. Singer likes Biff a lot, as he says little but is very thoughtful.
Singer then tells Antonapoulos how strange it was when all four guests came to see him at the same time, as none of them knew what to say. Singer does not understand why the group interaction was so strained. Then he writes that he will come to visit Antonapoulos soon because he misses him terribly. That night he dreams about his friend.
The next afternoon, the Christmas present that Singer has ordered for Antonapoulos arrives, several days late. The gift is a moving-picture machine with a half-dozen Mickey Mouse and Popeye comedies that Antonapoulos liked. Singer asked the jeweler for some days off, and he leaves that Friday to go see Antonapoulos.
Antonapoulos has been moved from his previous room because he is sick with nephritis. When Singer walks in and sees his friend, he thinks he looks like a king in all the finery that Singer has sent him—silk pajamas and a turquoise ring. Singer begins to tell Antonapoulos with his hands all the things he wrote the letter. Antonapoulos does not seem interested or respond to anything that Singer says. He is not even interested in the moving picture machine when he unwraps it. However, when Singer sets the machine up and starts one of the pictures, Antonapoulos's face lights up. The nurse lets Singer stay an hour past visiting hours to watch the moving pictures. Then he leaves, though he thinks he would rather be an invalid if it meant he could stay with Antonapoulos.
The fact that there are rumors about Singer floating about town demonstrates once again that everyone makes him into what they wish him to be, as opposed to perceiving who he really is. Jews insist he is Jewish; the merchants say he is rich, and a Turkish man is convinced that when he speaks Turkish to Singer, Singer understands. All of these rumors are utterly unfounded; Singer has come to represent all things to all people because he cannot disillusion them by speaking.
Curiously, Singer himself falls prey to the same delusions in his perceptions of Antonapoulos. He describes his friend as being someone who is "wise and good," though little that we know about Antonapoulos would support the use of either adjective. The story Singer remembers about the way Antonapoulos treated Carl seems more illustrative of the true Antonapoulos: a selfish, lazy, stupid person. However, as the months go by and Singer misses his friend more and more, he remembers only the good things about his friend. He even thinks that maybe Antonapoulos can read, so he begins writing him letters, even though the narrative has already indicated that Antonapoulos is illiterate. The one person with whom Singer wants to interact has no desire to interact with him in return; ironically, Singer has as little true knowledge about Antonapoulos as any of his own visitors have about him.
We see Singer's generous nature in the numerous gifts he gives to all those around him, especially Antonapoulos. Singer unwittingly fulfills one of Mick's secret desires by purchasing the radio; now she does not need to sneak into rich neighborhoods and listen under windows. It is clear through Singer's words to Antonapoulos what astounding effect music has on Mick. It is a special demonstration of the faith Mick feels in Singer; she thinks he shares her passion for music, even though she knows he is deaf: "She comes all the time now that I have a radio for them. She likes music. I wish I knew what it is she hears. She knows I am deaf but she thinks I know about music." Another striking aspect of Singer is the simplicity with which he conveys his thoughts to Antonapoulos. All the tormented visitors come and tell their woes to a very ordinary, nice man whom they have made into a sort of god simply because he listens.
Singer's letter makes it clear that, despite his visitors' beliefs to the contrary, he does not understand much of what they say to him. The guests he likes best appear to be Biff and Mick, as they do not rant at him the way Dr. Copeland and Blount do; the fanaticism of the latter two even makes Singer a little frightened. Singer is baffled as to why the four guests suddenly have nothing to say when they are all put in a room together. He does not realize that they mostly need someone to listen; they are each looking for affirmation for their own private beliefs and relief from their doubts, and none is particularly interested in why the others visit Singer.
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