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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Part One, Chapter 2

Part One: Chapter 1

Part One, Chapter 2, page 2

page 1 of 2

This second chapter begins three months later, told by the narrator through Biff Brannon's point of view. Biff is the proprietor of the New York Café, a local restaurant where many town residents go to eat, drink, and socialize. It is midnight as the chapter opens, and most of the patrons are drinking. John Singer is sitting by himself at one of the tables.

Biff goes upstairs to a room where his wife, Alice, is sleeping. He bumps into a suitcase on the floor. Alice wakes up and orders Biff to get rid of the "lunatic" who has been at the bar constantly for the past two weeks. She does not want Biff to return the crazy man's suitcase to him until he has paid for all the drinks Biff has served him. Alice warns Biff that the drunk had better not be down in the bar when she wakes up tomorrow.

Biff goes into the bathroom and remembers that Jake Blount, the drunk, first came into the bar on May 15th. Biff describes Blount as a short man with sagging shoulders and a fat lower lip. There is something oddly intriguing about Jake; he talks all the time, but in a variety of ways—some nights he sounds like a professor, others like a "linthead." Jake speaks about everything from politics to cathouses, and Biff is interested in watching him some more.

Biff takes Blount's suitcase downstairs and puts it behind the cash register, where he usually stands to keep an eye on everything. He has just started to read the paper when he looks up and sees Mick Kelly standing in the entrance—"a gangling, towheaded youngster, a girl of about twelve... dressed in khaki shorts, a blue shirt, and tennis shoes." Mick comes in and buys a pack of cigarettes. She accidentally spills some coins on the floor; Blount comes up to her, picks up the coins, and places them on the counter. Then Blount comments that he has been seeing John Singer in his dreams for the past few nights. Mick mentions before she leaves that Singer is rooming as a boarder in her family's house.

Blount goes over to where Singer is sitting and begins to talk to him. He tells Singer, "You're the only one in this town who catches what I mean." Blount keeps talking to Singer for about an hour, "as though a dam inside him had broken." Finally, Singer gets up and leaves, but Blount is so drunk he does not even notice. When he realizes that Singer has gone, he gets angry and leaves.

Biff dozes on the counter for a while and then is awakened by Willie, the young black boy who helps out in the kitchen. Willie tells Biff that Blount started butting his head against a brick wall in the alley and beating the wall with his fists as though he had lost his mind. Then Blount saw Singer and started yelling at him until Blount suddenly fell down. The police were called and are likely to arrive any minute.

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