The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
We'll go ahead and insert the obvious joke about not putting Baby in a corner and then move on. And hey, Baby Wilson does take dancing lessons. But the similarities between Hunter and Dirty Dancing end there – sadly, our Baby doesn't run off with Patrick Swayze at the end.
The Baby here is a spoiled child, a would-be Shirley Temple who becomes the victim of a serious trauma when she's accidentally shot in the head by Bubber Kelly. Before the accident, Baby was a performer, being groomed for stardom by her show-biz crazy mom, who pays more attention to Baby's "career" than to Baby herself.
Baby pretty much runs amuck around the neighborhood – the four-year-old even pops up at Mick's prom party very late at night:
Baby Wilson messed around on the front porch – and Baby wasn't more than four years old. Anybody could see she ought to be home in bed now, same as Bubber. [...] There was no reason for her to be here at all. Mister Brannon was her uncle and she could get free candy and drinks at his place [...] (2.1.103)
So it turns out Baby isn't that much different from the other neighborhood kids, running wild and causing trouble. But there is one major difference: she's spoiled. Mick seems to resent Baby for this, but her showy nature sure draws attention, both good and bad:
Anyway Baby looked like a fairy or something in the picture show. [...] With her yellow hair she was all pink and white and gold – and so small and clean that it almost hurt to watch her. She prissed across the street in a cute way, but would not turn her face toward them. (2.5.33)
So she's so cute it hurts. But all that attention ends up getting her shot with the BB gun. Definitely not a win-win situation here. And after the accident, Baby loses her charm and starts acting out in a major way. In fact, after her shooting, she seems more in line with the novel's adults: sullen, angry, and vaguely antisocial.