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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers

Part Two, Chapter 1

Part One, Chapters 5–6

Part Two, Chapter 2

Summary

The narrative of this chapters focuses on Mick's point of view. The summer after John Singer moves into the Kelly house is different from any other time Mick can remember. She is excited and thinking all the time. She spends her days outdoors with Ralph and Bubber, but Bubber is reliable enough that she can leave him alone with Ralph. At night, she goes out walking by herself.

Earlier that summer Mick has realized that her Dad likes to talk to her because he feels lonely and cut off from the family. He had been a carpenter before his hip accident a year ago, but after the accident he could only repair watches and clocks and various random things around the house. Mick had been in a hurry the night her father called her over to talk to her, but she had realized he was lonely and therefore stayed to talk to him.

Mick loves walking by herself at night. She usually goes to the rich parts of town, where every house has a radio. After a while she knows which houses tend to play the music she wants to hear. There is one house in particular with dark shrubbery outside the window, among which she hides to listen to the music playing inside.

In the fall Mick starts high school at Vocational. She realizes that there are lots of cliques among her classmates and that she does not belong to any one in particular, so she decides to throw a party to get to know some of the kids better. Mick calls ten girls and ten boys and tells them to come to her house at eight o'clock on Saturday night. The day of the party she and her family decorate the house with yellow leaves, crepe paper, and other autumn décor.

Mick has never worn nice clothes before, but for the party her sisters Etta and Hazel lend her a blue evening gown, pumps, and a tiara. She puts the dress and stockings and shoes on and stands in front of the mirror, having tried her hair six different ways and having put on makeup. Mick thinks she looks beautiful, but she does not feel like herself.

When the guests arrive, at first there is general pandemonium and chatter. Then Mick yells out for everyone to get a prom card and start signing up. One of the boys who asks her for a promenade is Harry Minowitz, a Jewish boy who is her next-door neighbor. Mick notices Harry because he is not wearing his usual glasses and therefore looks different. During Mick and Harry's promenade around the block, a song comes into Mick's mind and she starts singing. She tells Harry the song is by Mozart. He says that the name sounds German, and asks if Mozart is a Fascist or a Nazi. Mick says no, Mozart died a long time ago. Harry gets very worked up and says that if he saw a Fascist walking on the street he would kill him. Mick asks why, but Harry does not have time to answer her question because they are back at her house.

At this point the party has taken on a life of its own. Several of the neighborhood kids who were not invited have come anyway. Mick initially tries to restore order, but then she realizes that the party is more exciting this way, so she goes into the street to join the fray. Then she suddenly gets tired and yells for everyone to go home. She changes back into her shorts and tennis shoes and walks to the house in the rich neighborhood where she listens to classical music in the shrubbery. This night, the radio plays Beethoven, and the music has a profound effect on Mick. She falls asleep in the shrubbery for a while, then wakes up, realizes where she is, and runs home.

Analysis

It is an uplifting moment in the narrative when Mick suddenly realizes that the reason her father often calls her over is just to talk to her. This realization demonstrates Mick's growing maturity and sensitivity to the people she loves. She suddenly feels bad for her father, aware that he loved being a carpenter and that he now feels useless to the family because everyone is always busy and the house is always crowded. When Mick takes time to talk with her father, we know that—for a moment at least—he is happy.

Mick's plan to have a party so she can get to know some of the kids at school is another indication that she is growing up. She notes that in middle school she could walk up to anyone she wanted and become friends with them; however, in high school it has gotten more socially complicated. Nonetheless Mick often still feels young, as we see when she puts on the fancy dress and makeup and feels like a stranger to herself. Mick appears to be mildly attracted to her childhood friend Harry Minowitz; she notes that he looks different without his glasses on. However, it turns out that Harry cannot see very well without them, so he is forced to put them on again when they take the promenade together. The fact that Mick mentions Mozart to Harry at all is significant, as music is typically a very private and personal concern for her.

The novel takes place during the late 1930s, when tensions were rising in Europe and many felt apprehension over Hitler's regime in Germany. Harry's inquiry as to whether Mozart is a Fascist or a Nazi is initially funny because we knows that Mozart died long before Hitler ever came into power. On another level, however, the question is sobering: we see that the potential for war casts another shadow across the already difficult lives of all the characters. Harry has avidly been following the news, and he is eager to tell Mick more about the situation in Germany and what "fascism" is. Mick, however, becomes distracted by the crazed state of the party when they return, so they do not go around the block again.

Mick is similar to John Singer in that she also likes to take walks at night alone. She is markedly affected after listening to the Beethoven symphony, so moved by the music that she feels it leaves a painful feeling in her. Indeed, she even pummels herself on the leg and roughly scratches her hand to relieve this painful feeling the music leaves. This strange tendency toward self-mutilation is also present in Jake Blount; both he and Mick seem to injure themselves because they are powerless to do the things they really want, yet are nonetheless tormented by their passions. Mick cannot write down the notes for the music she hears, and her family cannot afford a piano; likewise, Blount cannot find anyone to believe in his Marxist ideology, or even anyone intelligent enough to listen and understand.

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