The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Reader's Guide - Discussion Questions
- Carson McCullers took her novel's title from a poem by William Sharp. How does this title relate to the novel's five main characters? Why might McCullers have changed it from her original title, “The Mute”?
- Isolation and loneliness are key themes in the novel. How are they different? What are some of the ways the characters seek to alleviate their feelings of isolation and loneliness?
- The narrator describes the main characters as both ordinary and heroic. Do you agree?
- What fuels John Singer's devotion to his companion, Spiros Antonapoulos? How does Singer feel after Antonapoulos is sent to the asylum?
- Why would McCullers choose to tell us so little about Singer's past?
- Mick Kelly has an “inside room” and an “outside room.” What does this mean? Is this true for the other characters as well?
- How different is Dr. Copeland's view of the world from his daughter's? What does he want for Portia? Why does she reject her father's ideal?
- Why does Jake Blount try to find the person who wrote a Bible passage he saw on a wall? Is this passage significant in any way to Blount's socialist message?
- Why can't Biff Brannon confide in Singer? How does he feel after his wife's death?
- What is the role of religion in the novel? How does this affect the actions and beliefs of the characters, especially Jake and Dr. Copeland?
- How and to whom does each of the characters in the novel express love?
- Do you find the ending of the novel disheartening or hopeful?
- In what ways do the themes of the novel resonate with issues of class and race today?
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