The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Study Guide

Carson McCullers

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Part 3, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Set in the afternoon of August 21, this chapter follows Blount on his final downward spiral. He is running from a crime scene at the Sunny Dixie Show in which he has participated. Rather than breaking up a violent fight between African Americans and whites, he had joined it, laughing with the exhilaration of the violence, and when the police arrived, he ran.

Blount believes he is running to his friend Singer, but he suddenly remembers that Singer is dead. He turns around to go the other way and runs into his old nemesis, the preacher Simms. He taunts him for a while and then goes to his room. There is evidence in his room of the pamphlets he has made and distributed in the last month. Like Dr. Copeland he realizes that all of his efforts in this town have led to nothing, and now he must leave. His mind turns to Dr. Copeland as he packs, and he decides to go visit him; however, he is too late. Dr. Copeland is gone and the house is empty. He goes to the Kelly house to ask Portia what has happened.

Portia is not happy to see him and tells him flat out he is not welcome around her father. "Father just a sick old colored man and he had enough trouble already. Us got to look after him. And he not anxious to see you—I know that."

So Blount heads back to town and gets caught in a rainstorm. He goes into the New York Café, where Biff says he has been expecting him. Biff serves him a hot drink and a plate of food and then asks him about the article in the paper reporting the trouble at the Sunny Dixie Show. The article says arrests have been made and more are expected. It states that labor agitation is expected to be behind the trouble, "as papers of a subversive nature were found on and about the site of disturbance." Since it's clear Blount is leaving town, Biff tries to offer advice, but Blount is sullen so he leaves him alone.

Blount falls asleep at the table, has a nightmare, and is awakened by Biff. This time, however, he remembers the dream: he was carrying a heavy basket in a big, silent crowd of people who were mostly half naked and starving. The horror is in how he just kept walking, "not knowing where to lay down the burden he had carried in his arms so long."

Blount says it is time for him to go, but Biff stops him and gives him two 20 dollar bills, extracting a promise that Blount will write to him. Blount walks out of town and feels "a new surge of energy." He has no destination in mind, but he does have hope.

Analysis

Like Dr. Copeland, Blount is leaving a town where he feels he has not achieved his mission. Unlike the doctor, however, Blount is going to a new place to try again. He still has "hope in him." His dream indicates it has not yet been time for him to put down the basket, which is no doubt filled with food for the starving people, but he still has the right to carry it.

The fight between whites and African Americans speaks to the racial tensions in town that have not been settled despite Blount's and Dr. Copeland's best efforts. It is curious that Blount's mind turns to Dr. Copeland at this point in the story and that he tries to reach out to him before he leaves town. After all the two men had a falling out that seemed irreparable. Is Blount somehow becoming more stable, more able to be rational and attentive to others' points of view? Because of the racial nature of the fight at the Sunny Dixie Show, does he see the doctor's perspective in a new light? The fact that it is raining as Blount is leaving town does seem to point to some sort of redemption for him, given the Christian symbolism of water as washing away sins.

Blount has never paid Biff for the bill he ran up during his binge a year ago, yet Biff gives him money. Biff truly is a good-hearted man. The advice he offers Blount, to "go someplace where you can meet a few people more or less like yourself," goes unheeded, but it is nevertheless good counsel. Biff seems to understand that Blount's ideas are not so wild that others, perhaps living in a less insulated small town, could accept them and join his cause. This is more than Blount ever got from Singer, the one person he feels understood him, making this another example of the resounding theme of the untrustworthy nature of human communication.

Without Blount and Dr. Copeland in town, it is hard to say whether racial and social justice will still be topics of debate in the restaurants and bars and boarding houses.

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