The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

by: Carson McCullers

Part Two, Chapters 10–11

Summary Part Two, Chapters 10–11

They walk their bikes the sixteen miles back to their houses, shake hands, and part. Mick is surprised that no one in her family notices what is different about her. That night, Mrs. Minowitz calls and asks Mick where Harry is, as he has gone missing. Mick says she does not know.

Analysis

Dr. Copeland decides to try to help Willie get justice. However, his attempt backfires when he does not heed his nagging feeling that it would be better for him to come back later: "His sense of prudence told him to go away and return later in the afternoon when the sheriff was not there... But now something in him would not let him withdraw." Sure enough, Dr. Copeland ends up in jail—an event that is likely much more devastating to him than it would be to a man not as passionately dedicated to fighting racism. It is a downward turn in the narrative—despite his best efforts; Dr. Copeland cannot overcome the racism of the society in which he lives. It is also symbolic that Willie's feet have been cut off: black people are already deprived of so many of the rights to which white people are entitled that all of the black characters in the story are effectively crippled—even those who are not literally confined to a wheelchair.

In Chapter 11, Mick breaks a significant tie to her childhood when she loses her virginity. However, because the sex is brief—undescribed in the narrative—and because she has known Harry for so long, the event becomes something that puzzles her rather than producing psychic trauma. The impact of the experience is wiped out with even greater force when Mick returns home to discuss the event with Singer, and, as we see later, is unable to. Harry, on the other hand, is very upset for a variety of reasons: first, because he defiled a virgin; second, because Mick is not Jewish. Harry decides he has to leave, and he tells Mick that after he writes to her she should send him a postcard with the word "O.K." on it so that he'll know that she is not pregnant.

McCullers deliberately treats Mick's sexual initiation lightly and delicately: "It was like her head was broke off from her body and thrown away. And her eyes looked up straight into the blinding sun while she counted something in her mind. And then this was the way. This was how it was." McCullers does not want Mick to suddenly transform into a sexually sophisticated adult, nor does she wish to convey the idea that either Mick or Harry has found true love. Mick's characteristic exuberance, which we see throughout the rest of the novel, is conspicuously absent when she loses her virginity. On the contrary, for her, the experience is uniquely devoid of any physical or mental feeling at all.