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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Part Two, Chapters 12–13

Part Two, Chapters 10–11

Part Two, Chapters 14–15

Summary

Chapter 12

The narrative of this chapter focuses on the point of view of Jake Blount. The weather is now hot, and the Sunny Dixie (the fair where Jake works as a mechanic) has gotten crowded. Recently, a headache has begun to trouble him constantly, so he has cut out liquor entirely for a few weeks.

Blount ends up meeting the man who wrote the Biblical message in red chalk on the wall in town. The man, Simms, preaches on the sidewalks. Occasionally he comes to the fair to preach there too, and he continuously tries to convert Blount to devout Christianity.

The warm weather has resulted in an increase in the frequency of brawls at he fair, and Jake is constantly tense and ready to break things up if tensions fun high. One day he overhears two of his coworkers making fun of him behind his back, calling him a Red Bolshevik. He confronts the two men and yells at them. Jake reflects that if not for his friendship with John Singer, he would have left town months ago.

One day Jake goes to visit Singer, but Singer is not there when he first arrives. Then Singer comes in and tells Jake the news about Willie's feet being amputated. Jake thinks he might be able to do something to help the boy. He begins pacing the room and asks Singer to take him to see Willie.

Chapter 13

Jake and Singer go over to Portia's house. Jake asks Willie to tell him what happened. Willie does not want to tell, as he thinks that Jake is trying to get him into further trouble. This comment makes Jake angry. Portia intervenes to explain that naturally Willie is frightened; they have enough trouble as it is, even though she knows Jake does not mean any harm. Then Jake asks to talk to Willie's father, Dr. Copeland. However, just then, Highboy and Lancy Davis come in with wine. Marshall Nicolls, a black pharmacist and friend of Dr. Copeland, and John Roberts, a black postman, also try to convince Jake that, though his motives may be admirable, he will probably just cause more trouble for Willie.

Blount explains that all he wants to do is testify in court and explain why the things happened to Willie the way he did; he thinks that that may make some difference. Then Jake, who is already drunk, suddenly feels that the others are laughing at him, so he fumbles at a door, hoping it is the way out of the house. However, when he goes through the doorway he is not outside, but in Dr. Copeland's room.

Jake and Dr. Copeland get into a heated discussion about the best way to tell the rest of the world about injustice. Dr. Copeland wants to organize a march on Washington, but Blount thinks this is a stupid idea because he thinks that half of the demonstrators will not even know why they are really demonstrating. Dr. Copeland does not think that this matters. The two men, though both passionate, end up working at cross-purposes: Jake wants to educate the nation about the injustices of capitalism, whereas Dr. Copeland is more concerned with racial equality. They get into a fight, and Jake runs from the room sobbing.

Analysis

It is ironic that though Jake astutely believes in Singer—a person whose personality he has almost entirely created within his own mind—he scoffs at Simms's religious faith. Blount and Simms are not really that different after all, as both believe in something for which they have no proof of existence—Singer and God, respectively. The only difference is that Singer has a provable physical existence, whereas God's existence is mysterious. This difference is a mere technicality, however; Jake has entirely imagined Singer's personality, just as people must imagine Christ. Singer's inability to respond is what likens him most to a religious figure: he can listen, but not answer. As in religion, the solace Blount finds in Singer is not in the answers to his questions, but in feeling that his questions are heard.

Surprisingly, Jake takes an interest in Willie's case when Singer tells him about the situation. Blount has not previously demonstrated much interest at all in helping black people in their struggle for equality, but it could also be that Jake is finally so desperate to do something to remedy any injustice that he takes the first chance he gets. First Portia, and then Marshall Nicolls and John Roberts, try to make Jake aware of how dangerous the system already is for black people. They tell Jake that although he clearly means well, he may get Willie into even more trouble if he persists in his course of action. However, as Jake is not a terribly perceptive person to begin with, and as he is getting progressively more intoxicated, he simply does not understand what the others are saying. Then, in a somewhat fortuitous turn of events, Blount stumbles into Dr. Copeland's room.

Both Jake and Dr. Copeland are fanatical whenever they express their intensely held beliefs and try to find a common cause with their listeners. Their respective fanaticisms undermine their sincere attempts to communicate with others and to influence them. Even though both men are faithful believers in Marxism, they have very different ideas regarding how to best implement his ideology. Blount firmly believes that every single person must be fully educated about problems before they begin—he wants to start on the individual level. However, Dr. Copeland warns Blount that there is not have enough time to go door-to-door and spread their knowledge; the Doctor proposes a huge gesture such as a march on Washington, as a public demonstration would make the nation's leaders take notice. Each of the men feels so strongly about his ideas that he end up screaming insults at the other. The fact that even two men with similar views are unable to communicate indicates the overarching epidemic of misunderstanding that characterizes the interactions of almost all the characters in the novel—that is, all interactions of which Singer is not a part. The four main characters all feel that can communicate only with a man who cannot speak.

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