fiction, review

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Indonesian edition’s cover

Some people are living a sad, lonely life, being stereotyped and discriminated and misfits simply for what and who they are, for what they choose to do or to believe. As the minority, they have to live with being unaccepted, socially, and stranded away in the path nobody’s walking through. Thus, they are left alone and empty. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers pretty much reflects this reality, which remains prevailing even up to this day everywhere despite the book’s publishing date back in 1940. Set in America, the land of the “melting pot”, where the term of diversity can be both beneficial and problematical, the novel conveys loneliness within the diversity of people who can also possibly be us.

The story unfolds in an overlapping plot where all the characters undergo such unpleasant experiences in their lives. John Singer, a deaf-and-dumb Jew, lives with his dumb Greek friend, Spiros Antonapoulos, in a little Southern town. Being best friends, they never feel lonely, although problems and quarrels seem unable to be avoided. But soon, after Antonapoulos leaving him, Singer feels empty and depressed, thinking that no one can understand him as well as Antonapoulos does, in spite of the fact that Antonapoulos never seems to understand him at all. The same loneliness befalls Jake Blount, a radical leftist man who cannot stand living in a capitalist America and thinks that he must make a difference by doing something extreme. But no sooner can he do anything to realize his idealism than people mock him for being a communist, making it clear that no one can hold a socialist idea in the United States of America without being socially isolated.

Having big dreams is never a wrongdoing in the land of America, but when Mick Kelly has to face her inconvenient environment and inability to realize her dreams, composing wonderful music and traveling around the world, she knows that she’s stuck. She doesn’t seem to have anywhere to run to, despite the warmth and open-armed welcome Biff Brannon gives her. To Brannon, Mick, and his own niece, are the embodiment of children he always longs for, but can never have, looking at his sexual problem and his wife’s terrible condition. And, in the middle of it all, Benedict Copeland lives as an African-American doctor who has to endure the discrimination and oppression the white people majority put him through. It’s never easy to be an African-American in America, much less an African-American doctor at that time. However big his dedication to his job and to the best interest of his people is, no matter what his plan for the future of his race is, he will always find himself alone, because there is always a vivid barrier between black and white people.

McCullers presents to the reader what it’s like to be alien to a society, to a place we are living in, in an overlapping yet unpuzzling way. All the characters are told brilliantly, described strongly and naturally along the seamlessly flowing plot. All the characters come from diverse backgrounds, yet they experience the same feeling of isolation, of depression, and that’s what relates them to each other. Their stories make an intertwined whole, but narrated so carefully unbaffling that the reader can follow it thoughtfully without any sense of boredom, getting deep into the feelings and thoughts of all the characters involved. McCullers uses a simple but gripping narrative to tell it all, with simple language stitching it up together that is planted firmly in our mind to make us feel the day-to-day difficulties and loneliness of the lonely hunting hearts. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a natural story, told modestly in an unextravagant way yet still arousing our conscience, about people who cannot taste happiness and peace of heart, people who are lonely, poor, discriminated, unloved, yet still pursue their dreams and try to realize their idea. This book is so marvelous except for one tiny flaw: its predictable end, which is quite disappointing.

In conclusion, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is an incredible work of literary fiction about humanity, about something that exists inside every human being but is not obviously plain to see. It is a great prose as a whole, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great work of literature.

Rating: 3.5/5

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