The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Study Guide

Carson McCullers

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Part 2, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

In Singer's room, Blount does not remember his previous encounter with Dr. Copeland as he demands to know who it was he has bumped into. But he soon moves on to talking about a woman named Miss Clara who was significant in his early life. He met her at around age 20 when he was considering being an evangelist, so rabid in his beliefs about Jesus that he once nailed his hand to a table to see how it felt. She talked to him about the evils of capitalism, and he studied these ideas until he became as rabid about them as he once had been about Jesus.

Although Blount has tried to convert people all over town to his radical ideas, no one is listening to him. He has taken on much more than a mechanic's role at the Sunny Dixie Show and is in charge of keeping people in order. He lives in squalid quarters but is there as little as possible because "the loneliness in him was so keen that he was filled with terror." Instead he roams the streets, usually drunk, spreading his message.

After a short nap, Blount continues talking to Singer. He says he hasn't joined the Communist Party yet and asks Singer if he thinks he should; Singer replies that he doesn't know. Jake doesn't trust organizations much, having started one himself whose members ended up wasting the money in the treasury.

When dinnertime comes Singer politely indicates it is time for Blount to go, but Blount keeps talking as he leaves the room with him. Blount comes back later with a quart of whiskey. He stays until evening, when he begins to rant to the point that Singer becomes concerned. But then Blount passes out and doesn't awaken until late the next morning, long after Singer has left the room. As he walks home he sees a message written in red chalk on a wall: "Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth." He responds with his own message: "Whoever wrote the above meet me here tomorrow at noon. Wednesday, November 29. Or the next day." But no one comes on either day, and then a heavy rain washes both messages away.

Analysis

The derangement Dr. Copeland notices in Blount's eyes at the end of the previous chapter cannot be disputed. Blount's rantings on the long Sunday he spends with Singer are hard to follow or understand, and his encounters with people who laugh at his ideas often result in his "crazed violence" and loud sobbing. He is nearly always drunk, which does not help. It also does not help his cause, as the men he tries to organize to resist their labor conditions have no reason to trust a drunken, raving man.

Blount seems to know he is not well. He says to Singer, "Some of us go nuts. There's too much to do and you don't know where to start. It makes you crazy. Even me—I've done things that...don't seem rational."

The Biblical writing on the wall—and Blount's response to it—further drives home his disconnection from reality. Regardless of who wrote it, Blount sees it as a sign, an opportunity for him to collaborate with someone who understands him. Yet he does not closely read the language from the Bible, which is a passage from Ezekiel. It glorifies warfare and compares fallen heroes to animals who are sacrificed, yet it is the sort of zealous language that he so despises from the fanatical preacher Simms. McCullers really wants readers to get this Christian connection, as she describes the words as washed away by rain—just as people's sinful natures are supposedly washed away in the water of Christian baptism.

The one surprising thing revealed about Blount in this chapter is that he has been a religious fanatic during his life and he now believes Jesus would approve of his socialist ideas: "Take Jesus. He was one of us...me and Jesus and Karl Marx could all sit at a table." Blount clearly needs an ideological anchor in his life, some idol who can organize his understanding of his existence and bring his life meaning.

With this mention of Karl Marx, the rather eerie similarities between Blount and Dr. Copeland are thrown into relief. Are both men out of touch with reality?

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