The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Study Guide

Carson McCullers

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Part 3, Chapter 1 | Summary



Each of the four chapters of this part is dated. They all take place on the same day, August 21, 1939, but progress through the day. The first chapter, labeled "Morning," takes place at the Copeland home. Dr. Copeland's family is forcing him to move to the farm to live with Daisy's father and his own sons, Hamilton and Karl Marx ("Buddy"). His health has deteriorated to the point that Portia feels the move is absolutely necessary. Today is the day of the move, and Dr. Copeland has packed but is not ready to leave. He is not done grieving what he views as his failure and is going through his memories of the years in the house, including the moments of joy from living "a day of purpose" and the "black, terrible feelings that had returned to him again after the argument with Blount.

When Dr. Copeland is finally ready to go, the family piles into the automobile: Highboy, Karl Marx, Portia, and Willie. The doctor decides he wants to ride in the wagon with Grandpapa, so Hamilton also joins the others in the car. Grandpapa tries to make friendly conversation with Dr. Copeland, but the doctor remains stiff. He is interested only in "justice for us. Justice for us Negroes." But he has no one to talk to about his ideas.


This first part of Part 3 serves as an epilogue or coda to the main action of the novel, which revolves around Singer's friendship with Antanopoulos. Without Singer in the town, each of the major remaining characters is left unmoored, without an advisor or confidant.

The first chapter of Part 3 centers on Dr. Copeland, who claims he will return to the house as soon as his health is stronger, in a month or so. But it seems unlikely that will happen. "This cannot truly be the end," he thinks, but he is old and very sick with an incurable illness. The problem is that he feels his life's mission of 40 years still amounts to nothing: "And yet all remained to be done and nothing was completed." No one has understood, including Singer—just as the doctor is incapable of comprehending why Singer would commit suicide.

Dr. Copeland's impending death might also suggest the long wait of African Americans for segregation to end. Without advocates like Dr. Copeland the town will not be reminded of its unequal treatment of African Americans. Indeed, it was not until some two decades after the action of the novel that the Civil Rights movement began to achieve judicial and legislative recognition of inequality.

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