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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Part One, Chapter 4

Part One, Chapter 3

Part One, Chapters 5–6

Summary

The narrative of Chapter 4 focuses on Jake Blount's point of view. Jake wakes up in John Singer's room and sees Singer sitting at a table playing chess. Singer pours Jake a pitcher of ice water. As Jake dresses, Singer takes out a business card with his name on it along with the words, "I am a deaf-mute, but I read the lips and understand what is said to me. Please do not shout." Blount is shocked, as he had not realized that Singer was mute, despite the man's silence. They chat for a moment, and Singer writes another note telling Jake he can stay in this room until he finds a place to live.

Blount leaves to go find a job, bringing his dirty overalls with him so that he can throw them out. Mick Kelly is still sitting on the stairs, and she shows Blount where the garbage can is. He throws the overalls away and walks into the center of town. He buys a paper in a shop and sees a help-wanted ad for a mechanic. Jake drops by the New York Café to say hello to Biff Brannon, telling Biff that it will be a while before he can pay him back for all the drinks. Then Blount goes to see about the job he saw advertised.

The job Jake seeks is a mechanic's job, fixing up and running a ramshackle merry-go-round at a carnival in a filthy mill district near the river. A red- haired man named Patterson appears and asks Blount about his experience. Quickly convinced Blount is qualified, Patterson gives him the job, saying he can start the following afternoon. Jake shakes hands with Patterson and leaves.

On his way home, Jake stops and sits on a doorstep and rolls a cigarette with three other men. He tells the men, "I got the Gospel in me." He explains further that the Gospel he has is not comprised of religious fervor, but rather of "the truth." Blount asks if the men work for the mills, and they say yes. He asks if they have ever been on strike. One man replies that there was a strike several years ago, but the mills just sent out trucks to other towns to bring in replacement workers.

Jake becomes very angry upon hearing this story, but the men do not share his wrath. They begin to laugh at him, so he walks back to the Kellys' and vents to Singer about his frustration with the ignorance of the mill workers. Blount tells Singer about the books he has read, by Marx and Veblen, and says that the more he studies, the madder he gets. As Jake talks, Singer keeps pouring him more wine. Jake feels that Singer understands him, he and falls asleep once the bottle is finished.

Analysis

Blount is one of the most volatile characters in the novel, and occasionally one of the most disgusting. He drinks constantly, bathes rarely, and behaves erratically. In Chapter 2, Biff notes Blount's capacity for speaking in different ways the sudden fervor with which Blount speaks to Singer. Blount's bout of violence stems from his frustration with the world; we sees other, similar outbursts—mostly verbal but occasionally physical—throughout the rest of the novel.

Although Blount is crass and bizarre, he is very intelligent and well read. He is consumed with the ideas of Marxism, and he views capitalism as an unjust system that exploits the poor for the benefit of the wealthy. He sees this injustice everywhere he goes. He hopes that he will find others who "know" about the unfair nature of capitalism so that he can work with them to sort out his thoughts and emotions and take action. Blount thinks that Singer is someone who "knows"—shares his political fervor—though Singer does not indicate this in anything he says or does. The fact that Blount, like all the other characters, places all of his faith in Singer is further evidence of the religious role that Singer plays in the novel. Indeed, Blount himself claims that the message he must deliver to others is a sort of "Gospel."

The fact that Blount does not notice of his own accord that Singer is mute highlights Blount's narcissism: he is concerned almost solely with his own thoughts and ideas. He decides in his own head that Singer also understands these thoughts, even though this is not a rationally justifiable decision. However, Blount really only does—more blatantly, of course—that which all the other characters do: he creates a conception of Singer in his own mind that has very little basis in reality, and he attributes his own ideas and emotions to Singer as well. None of the characters ever really get to know John Singer, but they all love him anyway, just as Singer loves Antonapoulos for no discernible reason. Each character is so desperate for a soul mate that they fashion their own idea of who John Singer is. If Singer were able to speak, the others would not be able to delude themselves into thinking he understands their deepest secrets and passions.

It is also worth noting that even though Blount comes into contact with Mick Kelly, he cannot share any of his feelings with her. Though several major characters share Singer as a mutual confidant, none of the characters themselves are able to relate to one another in the least. For each of them, Singer becomes his or her sole confidante. Even though the characters often interact with each other, they never speak of that which most occupies their thoughts.

The carnival where Jake works indicates the extreme poverty of many of the town's residents. The fair is located in a bad area near the river, strewn with sewage and garbage. Even the merry-go-round is old and falling apart. Blount does not mind fixing up the broken merry-go-round so that it can be used. However, it seems that Blount, like Mick Kelly, is constantly surrounded and suffocated by crowds of people. McCullers uses the image of an individual in a crowd to demonstrate how difficult it is to get anywhere—literally or figuratively—as an individual when one is bound by poverty.

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