“In his face there came to be a brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise. But still he wandered through the streets of the town, always silent and alone.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers)
“That was the way things were. It was like she was mad all the time. Not how a kid gets mad quick so that soon it is all over – but in another way. Only there was nothing to be mad at. Unless the store. But the store hadn’t asked her to take the job. So there was nothing to be mad at. It was like she was cheated. Only nobody had cheated her. So there was nobody to take it out on. However, just the same she had that feeling. Cheated.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers)
McCullers follows five misfits in a southern 1940’s mill town as their lives and thoughts are changed by the arrival of Singer, a deaf-mute. For a about a year each of these people find some relief in their loneliness by talking to the mute, fantasizing that he understands everything in their hearts: “Owing to the fact he was a mute they were able to give him all the qualities they wanted him to have.” Yet, Singer turns out to understand very little of these people’s troubles, being completely preoccupied with the loss of his only friend. We are left with a cycle of misunderstanding and loneliness; the reader being the only one who understands this collection misfits, and the only character unable to offer any comfort to them.
McCullers’ language is simple, bare, and powerful. She conserves her syllables and metaphors, and seems unbothered by the repeated word or phrase. Her thesaurus is the daily language of people in the south. I usually feel as though I absorb some of the author’s writing style when I read a book and am able to discharge that somewhat in my posts, but I find McCuller’s strong, true language impossible to replicate. She proves that only the most basic, every day words are necessary to express the most fundamental truths.
Recommended Action: Buy –
Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 368 pgs. (Audiobook: 12 hours, beautifully done)
Ending: Vague. Unresolved.
Further reading: a less epic, more intimate, Grapes of Wrath. It will get you fired up about oppression and economic disparity in the same way as Steinbeck, only through simpler language and more emphasis on feeling.