Lonely Hearts Poem Analysis Essay

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Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Rae Belgard (---.63.76.142)

Date: June 03, 2003 02:13PM


I have a homework assignment to write an essay on Wendy Cope's "Lonely Hearts" which I need to dicuss her words and imagery in an argumentative essay. I need to use two outside sources and am looking for some insight.

Can anyone help?

Many Thanks,
Rae


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Re: Wendy Cope "Lonely Hearts"

Posted by: Rae Belgard (---.delv.east.verizon.net)

Date: June 03, 2003 07:58PM


Lonely Hearts
Wendy Cope




Can someone make my simple wish come true?
Male biker seeks female for touring fun.
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Gay vegetarian whose friends are few,
I'm into music, Shakespeare and the sun.
Can someone make my simple wish come true?

Executive in search of something new -
Perhaps bisexual woman, arty, young.
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Successful, straight and solvent? I an too -
Attractive Jewish lady with a son.
Can someone make my simple wish come true?

I'm Libran, inexperienced and blue -
Need slim non-smoker, under twenty-one.
Do you live in North London? Is it you?

Please write (with photo) to Box 152
Who knows where it may lead once we've begun?
Can someone make my simple wish come true?
Do you live in North London? Is it you?


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Re: Wendy Cope "Lonely Hearts"

Posted by: marian2 (---.in-addr.btopenworld.com)

Date: June 04, 2003 04:37AM


Its a very effective poem, particularly clever in that Cope doesn't set the scene except by the title, but you know by implication that there's this woman, searching for her soulmate among the small ads. She will consider anyone provided they live in North London - she's fairly desperate and in need of a change of direction, but not enough to throw up her job/home and go adventuring. She's looking for someone with a little bit in common with her (successful, straight and solvent ? I am, too) but different enough to bring some change into her life (perhaps the type she usually goes for has proved a disappointment once to often, or she's tried all sorts and had no more luck with one than another ) and both her desperation and the rut she's stuck in are shown by the repetition of the two lines 'Can someone make my simple wish come true' and 'Do you live in North London? Is it you?' . This is reinforced by Cope always using one of those two lines for the rhyme, while half the lines from the adverts are free of rhyme constraints. I get the strong impression that she's in a cage and wants someone else to come in and redesign it for her, rather than to rescue her. Tremendous poem, thanks for posting it.


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<b>Re: Wendy Cope &quot;Lonely Hearts&quot;</b>

Posted by: Stephen Fryer (---.bbd02tcl.dsl.pol.co.uk)

Date: June 04, 2003 12:45PM


And you might like to think about the fact that this is one of Wendy's delicious villanelles, like her Summer Villanelle:

[www.emule.com] />

Stephen


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Re: Wendy Cope &quot;Lonely Hearts&quot;

Posted by: marian2 (---.in-addr.btopenworld.com)

Date: June 05, 2003 04:07AM


I'm so glad you posted that, Stephen - I thought it might be a villanelle, but I'm no good at analysis of forms, and I wasn't sure (and was too lazy to look it up) so didn't mention it.


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Re: Wendy Cope &amp;quot;Lonely Hearts&amp;quot;

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.phoenix-04rh15rt-az.dial-access.att.net)

Date: June 19, 2003 01:04PM



Wendy is great - should have been Britain's current laureate. Continuing off topic:

[www.arlindo-correia.com] />

Reading Scheme

Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun.
Jane has a big doll. Peter has a ball.
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

Here is Mummy. She has baked a bun.
Here is the milkman. He has come to call.
Here is Peter.Here is Jane. They like fun

Go Peter! Go Jane! Come, milkman, come!
The milkman likes Mummy. She likes them all
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

Here are the curtains. They shut out the sun.
Let us peep! On tiptoe Jane! You are small!
Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun.

I hear a car, Jane. The milkman looks glum.
Here is Daddy in his car. Daddy is tall.
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

Daddy looks very cross. has he a gun?
Up milkman! Up milkman! Over the wall!
Here is Jane. They like fun.
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!


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Re: Wendy Cope &amp;amp;quot;Lonely Hearts&amp;amp;quot;

Posted by: Nick Ashley (147.129.165.---)

Date: March 23, 2004 07:04PM


IM having some difficulty in understanding this poem. I am trying to graspe the Imagery, form, rhyming, rhythme ect. If you have any iformation on this please let me know. I could really use the help.
Thanks


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Re: Wendy Cope &amp;amp;amp;quot;Lonely Hearts&amp;amp;amp;quot;

Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)

Date: March 23, 2004 07:30PM


Nick,

There's lots of information in the other posts. Try setting your profile to 'flat view.'

pam


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Re: Wendy Cope Reading Scheme

Posted by: Kate dulin (---.verona01.nj.comcast.net)

Date: December 14, 2004 07:32PM


I have a paper to do on "Reading Scheme" and I need some views about what the poem is talking about


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)

Date: December 15, 2004 12:05PM


  1. It is a villanelle - look it up.
    1. It is a parody of a nursery rhyme.
    2. It is about marital infidelity.


      Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun.
      Jane has a big doll. Peter has a ball.
      Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

      Here is Mummy. She has baked a bun.
      Here is the milkman. He has come to call.
      Here is Peter.Here is Jane. They like fun

      Go Peter! Go Jane! Come, milkman, come!
      The milkman likes Mummy. She likes them all
      Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

      Here are the curtains. They shut out the sun.
      Let us peep! On tiptoe Jane! You are small!
      Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun.

      I hear a car, Jane. The milkman looks glum.
      Here is Daddy in his car. Daddy is tall.
      Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

      Daddy looks very cross. has he a gun?
      Up milkman! Up milkman! Over the wall!
      Here is Jane. They like fun.
      Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!

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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)

Date: December 16, 2004 06:47PM


The poem is a parody of the Ladybird Keywords Reading Scheme, otherwise know as "Peter and Jane". They used a restricted vocabulary of the most commonly used words in English books. These words were introduced gradually over twelve levels of reading skill, with each new word being used several times to ensure recognition.

The first two pages of the first book are:-
Here is Peter.
Here is Jane.


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)

Date: December 17, 2004 11:44AM


I didn't know that, thanks. By an odd (?) coincidence, we had Dick and Jane in the USA. One wonders at the choice of similar boys' names. No doubt Australia now will have had Rodger and Jane, and Nigeria, Johnson and Jane.


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hollie (212.219.73.---)

Date: January 17, 2005 12:04PM


I am currently undertaking a dance course and for our exam we have to choreograph a dance on the poem At 3 am by Wendy Cole. I was wondering if you could help me understand what the poem is about as I am finding it hard and there seems to be no information on the internet about it. You all were able to interpret the above poem so well that I hoped you could help me......

This is the poem in full,

At 3 am

the room contains no sound
except the ticking of the clock
which has begun to panic
like an insect, tapped
in an enourmous box.

Books lie open on the carpet.

Somewhere else
you're sleeping
and beside you there's a woman
who is crying quietly
so you won't wake.


Any ideas you have about the poem, what it is saying, the structure, the poetic devices used etc, anything! would be extremely helpful.

The actual stimulus for the dance is just up to and including "the books lie open on the carpet" it does not include the end verse but it is still relevent as part of my research,

Thank you sooooooooo much to anyone who has the time to reply!


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hollie (212.219.73.---)

Date: January 17, 2005 12:05PM


I am currently undertaking a dance course and for our exam we have to choreograph a dance on the poem At 3 am by Wendy Cole. I was wondering if you could help me understand what the poem is about as I am finding it hard and there seems to be no information on the internet about it. You all were able to interpret the above poem so well that I hoped you could help me......

This is the poem in full,

At 3 am

the room contains no sound
except the ticking of the clock
which has begun to panic
like an insect, tapped
in an enourmous box.

Books lie open on the carpet.

Somewhere else
you're sleeping
and beside you there's a woman
who is crying quietly
so you won't wake.


Any ideas you have about the poem, what it is saying, the structure, the poetic devices used etc, anything! would be extremely helpful.

The actual stimulus for the dance is just up to and including "the books lie open on the carpet" it does not include the end verse but it is still relevent as part of my research,

Thank you sooooooooo much to anyone who has the time to reply!


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)

Date: January 17, 2005 12:23PM


Hollie, first of all let's set the record straight. The poem is by Wendy Cope.


At 3 am

the room contains no sound
except the ticking of the clock
which has begun to panic
like an insect, trapped
in an enourmous box.

Books lie open on the carpet.

Somewhere else
you're sleeping
and beside you there's a woman
who is crying quietly
so you won't wake.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


What the narrator has done in the poem is to give the characters, her own feelings.

The clock who feels like a trapped insect... is the narrator.
It is also the narrator who has begun to panic because it is getting late.
Obviously, her lover hasn't come home. She assumes he's with someone else.

In stanza two she says as much. "you're sleeping and beside you there's a woman"
It is the narrator who is crying and wished that he were sleeping next to HER and IF he were, she would not wake him.


Les


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)

Date: January 17, 2005 06:18PM


Wendy Cope, right. Cole is William Rossa Cole, who was also a fine poet.

Sure, one of the women (the speaker, and we can only infer the sex) is still lying awake at 3:00 a.m., listening to the ticking of the clock which reflects the growing panic she is feeling.

The other woman is less clear. We aren't told why on earth she should be quietly crying, hoping not to wake the person to whom the poem is addressed. We don't even know if the sleeping person is a man or woman either.

That doesn't matter for the assignment, I would think. All that is needed is to choreograph a dance routine based on the first stanza. Not that I have ever done anything like that, or could even if supplicated on prostrated breast. So, let's say we have a person in bed, lying with sheets and limbs akimbo, at first still and pensive, but becoming increasingly panic-stricken as the minutes pass. Somehow contrast that with the (text books, accounting books, reference books?) lying on the floor.

Like I say, I am glad it is your assignment and not mine.


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Eunice (212.219.73.---)

Date: January 18, 2005 08:30AM


Hi

I am also using the following poem by Wendy Cope to Choreograph a dance for my AS level exam.

At 3 am

the room contains no sound
except the ticking of the clock
which has begun to panic
like an insect, trapped
in an enormous box.

Books lie open on the carpet.

Somewhere else
you're sleeping
and beside you there's a woman
who is crying quietly
so you won't wake.

I wil really appreciate it if anyone out there could help me undertand the mood of the writer and the poem itself . A big TAHNK YOU to anyone who replies.


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)

Date: January 18, 2005 12:33PM


the mood

Desperation? Panicky? Forlorn? Despondent? Despairing? Gloomy?

Yeah, lotsa 'D' words. Despondent would be my choice.

And a big YOU'RE WECLOME back at you!


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hollie (212.219.73.---)

Date: January 19, 2005 05:37AM


Thanks for your replies on 3 am they have been really helpful and I am know much more aware on what the poem is about!!!! Oh and sorry for putting cole, typo hehehe.

Just wanted to say thanks!


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)

Date: January 20, 2005 12:10PM


Speaking of William Cole, and I know we weren't, but I think it was he who invented the River Rhyme. He also invented the Uncoupled Couplet, where one takes the first line of a famous poem and changes the 2nd line to create a flash of wit or insight. I think this was his first one:

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
The outline of her girdle shows.

Here are a couple more. It is a good game to play. I leave it to you to guess the originals.

Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may
But take your little pill each day.

There is a garden in her face;
Her dermatologist has the case.


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Re: Wendy Cope at 3 am

Posted by: olivia jayne (---.cache.pol.co.uk)

Date: January 23, 2005 02:48PM


i noticed you were also having difficulties finding infomation on the poem "at 3 am". i also have a dance exam soon based on this poem and i just wondered if you managed to find anything about it at all, and if so could you forward some links to me? i would be extremely greatful! x


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Re: &lt;b&gt;Re: Wendy Cope &amp;quot;Lonely Hearts&amp;quot;&lt;/b&gt;

Posted by: Michelle (212.219.80.---)

Date: January 24, 2005 11:09AM


bin on so many sites bout this dumb at 3 am poem ... starting 2 wish i wasnt doing it now ... but oh well ... it'll all come together .... iv had a thought that i thought id share considerin im stealin everyone elses views hehe
who says the 2 people .... from the 2 stanzas have anything in common? ... all we no is one is awake and the other is crying n tryin not wake some1 else ...... sooooooooo heres my thought (it aint that good s)
the person in the first stanza ... might be a woman .... cant sleep ... maybe she has just come out of a relationship .... maybe she just wants to be in one .... or maybe she is lonely and stressed .... the open books may symbolise research/writers block/ studying ..... we all no what exams are like now dont we? hehe ..... then theres then final stanza .... the person crying ... might be female again .... trying to hide her tears from a man .... because maybe their relationship has broken down ... or maybe it is a case of he's hitting her and shes hiding her tears as she doesnt want him to wake and do it again ....
just another theory
hope it helps any other dancer who was stupid enough to take this option (not that i can really say that considerin i took it 2 s) .....

peace


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Re: Wendy Cope At 3am

Posted by: Laura O'Reilly (---.server.ntli.net)

Date: January 26, 2005 02:43PM


Hi, i've also chosen this question for my solo, i've been told to basically choreograph the dance around the first verse up until 'Books lie open on the carpet'. My interpretation is that she has woken up in the night unable to sleep, the ticking of the clock seems to be driving her crazy and she feels as if she is trapped in her own house hence the line 'Like an insect trapped in an enormous box' the insect being her, and the box being her house. I think the central line 'Books lie open on the carpet' means she has unfinished business or something she has to do which is playing on her mind. Has anyone got a different interpretation??? thanks xxx


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Re: Wendy Cope Lonely Hearts

Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.phoenix-01rh15-16rt.az.dial-access.att.net)

Date: January 27, 2005 12:00PM


That should work well, except I don't believe she ever fell asleep in the first place. You could be correct though.


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SOURCE: Evans, Oliver. “The Tongue and the Heart: The Case of the Silent Singer.” In Carson McCullers: Her Life and Work, pp. 36-58. London: Peter Owen, 1965.

[In the following essay, Evans discusses The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter as an allegorical novel.]

1

The novel on which Mrs. McCullers had started to work during the year she was ‘resting’ in Columbus did not begin to take definite shape until after her marriage, and even then it did so very gradually. She knew that it was to be a book whose central theme was loneliness and love, and she had roughly decided on its pattern: the protagonist was to be a Jew about whom the other characters knew very little but to whom, for some reason, they all turned in their distress and confided their innermost hopes and fears. Somewhere in an art gallery she had seen a portrait of a Jew whose expression—wise, kindly, and compassionate—supplied her with the physical image of her character, whom she named Harry Minowitz. It is also possible that, unconsciously, she was endowing Harry Minowitz with some of the characteristics of her own father, and that this character represents to that extent a projection of the father image: Minowitz, like Mr. Smith, is a jeweller, and his relationship with the other characters is of a distinctly paternal type. It had not yet occurred to her to make her protagonist a deaf-mute, and Mick, at this stage, was not a girl at all but a boy named Jester.1

It was during the first year of her marriage, when she and Reeves were living in Charlotte, that she had what she sometimes refers to as an ‘illumination’:

For a whole year I worked on this book and I didn't understand it at all. All the characters were there and they were all talking to this man—but I didn't know why they were talking to him. Then one day, after working very hard on this novel I did not understand, I was walking up and down the floor when suddenly it came to me that Harry Minowitz (his name) is a deaf-mute and immediately the name was changed to John Singer.2 The whole focus of the novel was fixed and I was, for the first time, committed morally, ethically, and with my whole soul to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

This statement suggests that Mrs. McCullers is, like many romantics, a writer of the compulsive type, and it is her conviction that the writer discovers his purpose in the act of composition by a kind of ‘dawning’ process. It may be remarked that this is not, perhaps, the way in which allegories are commonly thought of as being written—and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, like most of Mrs. McCullers's work, is largely allegorical. But all allegorical writers do not work in precisely the same way, and in any case no real inconsistency is involved, for allegory, if it is to be other than merely mechanical, presupposes an intuitive faculty that invents incidents and relationships as well as a rational faculty that orders and arranges them according to a conscious plan. In allegory, which by its nature involves the use of symbols, the selection and integration of them is naturally more rigorous than in non-allegorical writing, but the source and growth of any work of art remain, as Mrs. McCullers has said, ‘as mysterious as the formation of life in the womb.’

At any rate the idea of making her protagonist a deaf-mute was a happy one, not merely for the obvious reason that he constitutes an excellent symbol of isolation but also because the nature of his handicap contributes greatly to the irony that is at the centre of the novel. For the reason Singer is so highly esteemed by the other characters is that, being mute, he cannot make himself fully known to them. Not that there is anything dubious about his character—he is simply lacking in the godlike qualities that they imagine they see in him, as is made clear from the letters he writes—and never mails—to his friend Antonapoulos. He himself wonders why it is that the others are always seeking him out. He writes to Antonapoulos: ‘They come up to my room and talk to me until I do not understand how a person can open and shut his or her mouth so much without being weary.’ Of Jake Blount he says: ‘The one with the mustache I think is crazy … He thinks he and I have a secret together but I do not know what it is.’ And of Mick: ‘She knows I am deaf but she thinks I know about music.’ About the whole situation he confesses: ‘I do not understand, so I write to you because I think you will understand.’

It is tempting to speculate that the reason Singer is able to get along so well with these so different characters (who often quarrel among themselves) is that his understanding of them does not greatly exceed theirs of him. Certainly it is because they know so little about him that they are free to imagine him as they wish him to be, so that the image of him which they fashion is really a projection of their own desires. The rumours that exist about him are therefore many and varied:

The Jews said that he was a Jew. The merchants along the main street claimed he had received a large legacy and was a very rich man. It was whispered in one browbeaten textile union that the mute was an organizer for the C. I. O. A lone Turk who had roamed into the town years ago and who languished with his family behind the little store where they sold linens claimed passionately to his wife that the mute was Turkish. He said that when he spoke his language the mute understood. And as he claimed this his voice grew warm and he forgot to squabble with his children and he was full of plans and activity. One old man from the country said that the mute had come from some place near his home and that the mute's father had the finest tobacco crop in all the county. All these things were said about him.

There is surface irony in the choice of the name Singer as applied to a deaf-mute, but there is also a sense in which the name, as I shall presently show, is peculiarly appropriate.

‘I never knew a deaf-mute,’ Mrs. McCullers once admitted in an interview. To write about one so knowingly, and at such length, posed a problem that was not to be solved overnight, but her imagination proved equal to the task and in none of her other novels, with the possible exception of Clock Without Hands, has she been quite so successful in the handling of realistic detail. When the book was nearly finished, her husband told her about a convention of deaf-mutes which was being held in a nearby town and suggested they go to observe it, but Carson refused: ‘I already had made my conception of deaf-mutes and didn't want it to be disturbed.’

The two years during which she worked on The Mute (whose title was later changed by the publisher to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter3) were amongst the happiest of Mrs. McCullers's life. She and Reeves were poor but they were in love, and as yet no cloud had appeared which threatened to trouble their peace of mind. During the day she would write, play the piano, and go for long walks in the country; in the evening, when Reeves came home, she would read aloud what she had written during the day and discuss with him the plan of the book. Occasionally he would make a suggestion, but what he mainly had to offer was not criticism so much as encouragement and enthusiasm. He had not altogether forgotten his own literary ambitions, and Carson made a point of reminding him of them from time to time. Between them they made a pact: she would write for a year while he worked to support them, and the following year the parts would be reversed—he would work at his writing while she acted as breadwinner. By this means they hoped in time to arrive at the point where it would be possible for both of them to devote all their time to fiction.

When Carson was in New York she had met, through Miss Bates, the novelist William March, author of Company K, which was perhaps the best American novel to come out of the First World War. Miss Bates, with whom she continued to keep in touch and who knew that she was working on a novel, now suggested that she apply for a Houghton Mifflin Fiction Fellowship and advised Carson to send several chapters of The Mute to March for his opinion and criticism. He was enthusiastic: not only, he declared, was the book worth subsidizing, but it contained some of the most sensitive writing that he had ever read; it was hard for him to believe it was a first novel. Encouraged by his and Miss Bates's support, Carson submitted the outline which appears in the Appendix of this book to the Houghton Mifflin Company, which awarded her a Fiction Fellowship of $1500.

2

The essential loneliness of individuals in a world full of other individuals as lonely as themselves is the paradox about which The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is constructed. It would, I think, be an impertinence to suggest specific biographical reasons why Mrs. McCullers chose this particular theme—or rather (since, as I have said, she is a compulsive writer) why it chose her. Beyond noting that she had always been conscious of the sense of difference that separates creative from ordinary people (and conscious also that ordinary people were conscious of it) and that during her first months in New York she came to know what it was to be lonely in the midst of crowds, there seems to be no particular point in speculation of this type: what is important is that the theme is a valid—indeed, a traditional—one, and that she recognized in it an opportunity to communicate her experience of life.

The structure of the book is strictly symmetrical. At its apparent centre is Singer, about whom the other main characters are grouped in satellite fashion, or to whom they stand in the same relation as the spokes to the hub of a wheel: Mick Kelly, the adolescent tomboy who struggles fiercely but hopelessly against the fate that denies her the money for piano lessons and that forces her finally to exchange her dream of becoming a concert pianist for a job at Woolworth's; Doctor Copeland, the agnostic Negro physician whose mission in life is the advancement of his race and who is willing to sacrifice everything, including his own health, toward this end—yet who is feared and mistrusted by even the members of his own family; Jake Blount, the Marxist proselytizer whose excess of zeal and refusal to compromise render him so ineffectual that he takes refuge in alcohol; and Biff Brannon, the proprietor of the New York Café, who watches everything from behind his counter with an attitude that is half ironic, half compassionate, and who, when his wife (for whom he feels no special fondness) dies, expresses the feminine side of his nature, hitherto held in abeyance, by using perfume and bleaching his hair.

Though Singer is the protagonist and the apparent centre of the book, its real centre is Spiros Antonapoulos, a grotesque character who is not merely a deaf-mute but a half-wit as well. For, while all the above-mentioned characters are attracted to Singer, Singer himself—unknown to the others—is attracted to Antonapoulos, so that Singer stands in the same relation to Antonapoulos as the other characters do to Singer. Singer's suicide removes the apparent centre of the structure, which thereupon collapses, but Singer commits suicide because Antonapoulos, the real centre, has died in a mental hospital. Alternatively, the structure of the novel, as Frank Durham has observed in an interesting essay (‘God and No God in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter’, South Atlantic Quarterly, Fall, 1957), may be considered to be pyramidal, with Antonapoulos at the apex, Singer just below him, and the other four major characters forming the base.4

When Singer, to whom everyone looks up, commits suicide (the situation reminds one irresistibly of that in Edwin Arlington Robinson's well-known poem, ‘Richard Cory’), the shock is indeed great for the four characters who, as we have seen, have imputed to him an omniscience that he really lacks, but the shock is no less severe for Singer when he learns of the death of his friend, to whom he has ascribed a similar power: indeed, judging from his reaction, it is far more severe, since it leads him to end his life while the other characters, though temporarily stunned and confused, continue their frustrated search for love.

Granted that the novel is an allegory, what is the symbolic function of Antonapoulos, and what is the moral truth that the author wishes to dramatize by causing the least attractive character in the book to be the object of Singer's love? These are difficult questions, but they must be answered if we are to understand The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. We have seen that Mrs. McCullers did not, as many reviewers thought, make Singer a deaf-mute because she has a fondness for the unusual as such but because of his symbolic value. Antonapoulos' defect, which is mental as well as physical, is likewise essential to the moral of the story. The fact that Singer's four friends do not see him as he really is but as they imagine him, and that Singer does not see Antonapoulos as he really is but as he imagines him, suggests that what men see in other men whom they admire or love is not what is ‘really’ there but what they wish to find: this is one of the truths with which Mrs. McCullers is concerned in her novel, and it ought to be obvious that the more grotesque and repulsive a character is who is yet capable of inspiring love in another, the more forcefully he illustrates this thesis.

That there is religious symbolism in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter cannot, I think, be denied, but it is religious only in the general sense that Singer may be said to be ‘deified’ by the others, and Antonapoulos by him. I think it is safe to infer, especially in view of the evidence in her outline, that Mrs. McCullers means that men invent the kind of gods that best serve their own purposes, but I do not think it is possible to find specific religious meanings in the novel in spite of a number of false clues which the author—I think unfortunately—scatters throughout. Of these the most obvious are the attempts (noted by Durham and others) to make of Singer a Christ figure.5 For if Singer represents Christ, whom then does Antonapoulos represent? Mr. Durham's speculation (that he symbolizes the gods of classical antiquity, and that the outcome of the novel illustrates ‘how, with the destruction of the pagan past, the Christian myth derived from it collapses’) is certainly ingenious, but it is inconsistent with some of the circumstances in the story, such as Antonapoulos' prayers to the Virgin Mary.

Of Antonapoulos (who, incidentally, was modelled—with a few radical alterations—after a Greek produce dealer in Columbus) Mrs. McCullers has deliberately made an enigmatic figure. Singer has the following dream about him, which has a Dostoevskyan quality:

Out of the blackness of sleep a dream formed. There were dull yellow lanterns lighting up a dark flight of stone steps. Antonapoulos kneeled at the top of these steps. He was naked and he fumbled with something that he held above his head and gazed at as though in prayer. He himself knelt halfway down the steps. He was naked and cold and he could not take his eyes from Antonapoulos and the thing he held above him. Behind him on the ground he felt the one with the mustache and the girl and the black man and the last one. They knelt naked and he felt their eyes on him. And behind them were uncounted crowds of kneeling people in the darkness. His own hands were huge windmills and he stared fascinated at the unknown thing that Antonapoulos held.

It is tempting, but not very rewarding, to speculate concerning the unknown thing which Antonapoulos is holding above his head ‘as though in prayer’, for it may supply the key to the meaning, or one of the meanings, of the novel. The context establishes that it is an object of worship, which would make of Antonapoulos not so much a god as a high priest or religious champion (In hoc signo vinces). The possibility that it is a cross,6 however, is less likely—since it is Singer rather than Antonapoulos who has been endowed with Christlike qualities—than that it is a pagan idol of some kind, perhaps a phallus (the author has previously suggested that Antonapoulos has both onanistic and exhibitionistic tendencies), so that the ironic source of Singer's ‘selfless’ love may be sexual after all, and the meaning of the dream may be that the spirit must ultimately kneel before the altar of the flesh—a meaning which does not fit easily into the ideological pattern of the novel. I rather wish that Mrs. McCullers had made the import of this dream more apparent or omitted it altogether, for I cannot resist the feeling that she has invested Antonapoulos with a mystery and an importance that are incommensurate with what we actually know of him.

There is in Singer more than a slight resemblance to Prince Myshkin in The Idiot of Dostoevsky: about both characters there is an aura of holiness which is associated with their simplicity, and both inspire confidences from the most unlikely persons. In neither novel is the attempt to make a Christ figure of the protagonist entirely successful, and both books suffer from a certain fuzziness in their symbolism. And when we read of Singer that he has in his face ‘something gentle and Jewish, the knowledge of one who belongs to a race that is oppressed … a brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise,’ we are reminded of the Dostoevskyan doctrine that it is suffering which ennobles and redeems mankind.

Mrs. McCullers once described The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter as ‘an ironic parable of fascism … presenting the spiritual rather than the political side of the phenomenon,’ a statement which has puzzled many critics and which, as Ihab Hassan has commented, ‘seems to have encrusted itself like a barnacle in the standard reference works on contemporary authors.’7 But while this description of the novel is indeed misleading in the sense that it limits the real subject too narrowly, it is possible if we think of Singer and Antonapoulos as leaders, blindly invested by others with attributes in which they are only too conspicuously (for those whom they fail to hypnotize) lacking, for us to see the terrifying meaning of the parable: in this absurdly grim game of follow-the-leader, the ultimate leader, the power beyond the power, is a lunatic. Chester E. Eisinger is therefore mistaken when he says concerning Mrs. McCullers's description of the book as an ‘ironic parable of fascism’: ‘The comment makes sense only if we assume that the economics of capitalism and the racial practices of the South suggest to her the barbarism of fascism.’8

At its broadest level of meaning, however, the allegory of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is neither religious nor political but concerns the struggle of individuals to free themselves from the cells of their beings—to achieve communication with other individuals similarly imprisoned and to identify themselves in some way with something bigger than themselves and outside themselves. Now of all the practical means of communication the most obvious is speech, and it is another irony of this intricate narrative that its two most articulate characters (Doctor Copeland and Jake Blount) are also the most miserable, while the only one who achieves a sort of happiness, however provisional and short-lived, is Singer, the deaf-mute. Speech, indeed, only leads in this novel to further confusion, frustration, and loneliness, as witness the bitter quarrel between Jake and the Doctor—two men with very similar interests—in the latter's bedroom. And it is because the Doctor must always say what he thinks, with a monumental tactlessness that is really a form of egotism, that he alienates his own children; and the one lesson that this would-be teacher has not learned himself is that the language of the mind is less eloquent than that of the heart, as his daughter, Portia, reminds him.

None of us ever cares to talk like you. Us talk like our own Mama and her peoples and their peoples before them. You think out everything in your brain. While us rather talk from something in our own hearts that has been there for a long time.

Portia, uneducated though she is—perhaps even because of her lack of education—is more adept than her father at the language of the heart, the language of ideal communication. Another would-be teacher, scarcely less effective than Copeland and Jake, is Alfred Simms, the mad evangelist who tries to substitute for the language of the heart the language of Scripture, to which he gives his own private meanings: he lives in a world of utter fantasy.

Any practical attempt at communication between individuals must end in failure, Mrs. McCullers is saying. The only way in which man can escape from his cell is through ideal communication, or love, and it is interesting in this connection to contrast Jake and the Doctor with Singer, for what the former are filled with is ideological enthusiasm rather than love. Of all the lovers and would-be lovers in the book the most passionate—and the most successful—is Singer. It is in this sense that, although a mute, he is the most eloquent of all the characters: the language of the heart does not require a tongue and may even be the more eloquent for lacking one—just as, in the case where one of the physical senses is impaired, another will occasionally compensate for it. The deaf-mute is indeed a singer, and his song—like that of the shepherd on the Grecian urn—is all the sweeter for its silence.

It is one of the characteristics of ideal romantic love, derived from Platonism, that it need not be reciprocal; the beloved, indeed, may even be unaware of the lover's existence, and while this is not precisely the case with Singer and Antonapoulos, it is, in view of the latter's limitations, an approximation of it. Singer's love does not require reciprocation but it does require an object, and when Antonapoulos dies his own reason for living is removed: suicide is a not uncommon outcome of romantic love. Grotesque though it may seem, Singer is in fact the archetype of the romantic lover, and the fact that the object of his love is unworthy of it makes him not the less typical but the more so, since idealization is the essence of romantic love.

What we have in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a group of characters seeking release in love from the bondage of self, but, since it is ‘natural’ for most men to think and act selfishly, their capacity for love is limited. The book presents us with a hierarchy of lovers, and of these Singer is the most eminent because he is the most selfless. The other characters seek out Singer chiefly because of what they think he has to offer them, not because they wish to offer him anything of their own. This point has been elaborated by John B. Vickery (in ‘Carson McCullers: a Map of Love’, Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature, Vol. I, No. 1, 1960) and by Horace Taylor (in ‘The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: a Southern Waste Land’, Studies in American Literature, Louisiana State University Studies, Humanities Series No. 8, 1960). Mr. Taylor points out that the selfishness of the other lovers is demonstrated in the scene when all of them meet by chance in Singer's room—an extremely awkward occasion, for while each of them was able to talk freely when he was alone with the mute, none of them is able to do so with the others present:

They cannot say anything. Each of them regards the others as intruders and considers his own need of Singer as paramount. When they are finally able to talk it is about the most superficial subject of all, the weather … What is revealed in the incident is the unconscious but utter selfishness of these people. Each of them is solely concerned with the pouring out of his own inner compulsions to Singer.9

But the gift of love which Singer makes to Antonapoulos is very nearly unqualified: it is true that his sessions with the Greek are consoling to him,...

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