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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Study Guide

Carson McCullers

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter | Quotes


He did like freaks.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

This statement is about Biff Brannon. Not only does it establish him as an accepter and observer of all people, but it also signals to the reader that unusual characters will be found throughout the novel. This is a trait of Southern Gothic literature, the genre of which McCullers is a master.


In nearly every person there was some special physical part kept always guarded.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

This statement about Biff Brannon's inner thoughts reveals he is in a position that allows him to observe all kinds of people and draw conclusions. The text that follows it gives examples of what he is thinking. Singer protects his hands. Mick protects her tender nipples. Alice protects her hair. Usually what people protect is what is important or troubling to them.


I don't want to be like...and I don't want to look like either of you.

Mick Kelly, Part 1, Chapter 3

Mick makes this statement to her two older sisters in a fit of anger, but it says a great deal about her. Mick is a true individual, and she doesn't mind being unique.


But I figured it wouldn't hurt you if you found out for yourself.

Bill, Part 1, Chapter 3

Bill says this to Mick when he tells her how dumb her idea to make a violin was. It's representative of the way Mick has grown up—without anyone really bothering to teach her things or show her how the world works.


It was funny, too, how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

This statement describes Mick's feelings, but the feeling of loneliness and alienation she has is a major theme expressed by all the main characters at one time or another.


All his life he had told and explained and exhorted.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 5

This statement about Dr. Copeland succinctly describes how he will not let others act in their own ways but constantly tries to influence behaviors to fit his model of perfection.


They felt that the mute would always understand whatever they wanted to say to him.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 6

It is still early in the book, but McCullers is already pointing out why people like Mick, Blount, and Dr. Copeland are coming to depend on Singer. He is what each one of them needs him to be.


The whole world was this music and she could not listen hard enough.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 1

Here the narrator expresses why music is so important to Mick: it opens the world to her and helps her escape.


With her it was like there was two places—the inside room and the outside room.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 5

Mick's inside world is one of music and fantasies about her future. Singer is also in the inside room because he helps her believe in her dreams. The outside world is her mundane, daily life.


You will have to sell yourselves for a useless purpose in order to keep alive.

Dr. Copeland, Part 2, Chapter 6

These words are part of Dr. Copeland's impassioned speech about Marxism he gives at his Christmas party. He is explaining to the listeners that they are being kept down in menial jobs so that they cannot become more important in the world.


Each man described the mute as he wished him to be.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 7

Even strangers begin viewing Singer as some sort of godlike being. Because he cannot speak, they give him the traits they need him to have to keep their hopes alive.


He touched the solid bottom of despair and there took ease.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 10

When Dr. Copeland learns what has happened to Willie, his grief is too deep to allow room for his usual seething anger. Imagine how peaceful it must be for him to just let himself be, even if it is in grief, for a little while.


He has not recognized fully enough certain elements of the different races and the situation.

Marshall Nicolls, Part 2, Chapter 13

Nicolls admires Dr. Copeland and is his friend, but he represents a different point of view on how to improve conditions for their people. He believes Dr. Copeland tries too hard to make every person behave in the same way.


I think your opinions are radical. But at the same time I like to know all sides of a matter.

Biff Brannon, Part 3, Chapter 2

Biff is speaking to Blount as Blount is about to leave town. The statement shows why Biff is such a good listener, and it also reinforces the important idea in the novel that people should be allowed to be individuals.


He saw a glimpse of human struggle and of valor. Of the endless fluid passage of humanity.

Biff Brannon, Part 3, Chapter 4

These statements at the end of the novel pull the themes together nicely. The human condition will never change, but the struggle is worth it.

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