The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Study Guide

Carson McCullers

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Part 2, Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

In a departure, this chapter keeps the focus on the same main character as the last: Jake Blount. However, since it takes place in the Copeland home, there is also a great deal of emphasis on Dr. Copeland's response to what happens.

Keeping his promise, Singer has brought Blount to see Willie. Blount's goal is to get the full story from Willie so he can somehow use it to further his own attempts to incite rebellion in the town. Willie is reluctant to tell the details of what happened to him, but Blount presses him until Portia intervenes. At this point Blount is in a drunken daze and ready to leave, but Singer is in with Dr. Copeland, who is quite ill and in bed. Two of Dr. Copeland's friends have heard about Blount's interaction with Willie and express their concerns that he leave the issue alone and "not endanger this amicable relationship already established," presumably with the white authorities. Blount cannot process what they are saying. He says to Willie, "I would have pushed you all around in a wagon and you would have told your story and afterward I would have explained why." He staggers across the room and through doors until he comes to Dr. Copeland's room.

The doctor tells him to "Get out," but Blount does not leave. Many hours later he is still there; the two men have evidently been exchanging their philosophies in a fairly cordial way. But now their conversation becomes contentious, with each man saying only his position on "the way out" is the correct one. Dr. Copeland calls Jake's ideas "childish." He tells Blount about his plans to organize a march on Washington, and Blount scoffs at his ideas, calling the plan "crazy." As their insults to each other worsen, both men become too angry to continue arguing. The doctor's illness gets the better of him, and Blount rushes away, "sobbing with violence."

Analysis

The idea that Blount and Dr. Copeland have more in common than not is proven true in this chapter. Both possess a vision for society that they fervently believe in and love to talk about. Their visions are based on many common ideas, and they no doubt enjoy sharing their individual rants about all that is wrong in society. However, they do not share the same ideas about how to cure society's ills.

Regardless, both men are too ill to see their plans through. Dr. Copeland's physical health and Blount's mental stability are rapidly crumbling. The person who brought them together, Singer, has disappeared in the night without letting either of them know, and although they have come to understand each other during the long hours of talking better than Singer ever could, each leaves the encounter feeling totally misunderstood and disrespected. The fact that two men who share such similar views end up screaming at one another provides further proof of the central themes of the novel: the inability to communicate, which fosters loneliness and isolation. Civilized discourse is not possible for them in the end; all that is left is cursing and name-calling, nothing more than empty words.

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