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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

by Carson McCullers

Language and Communication Theme

<em>The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter</em> is all about conversation. In fact, the entire novel is structured around people talking to each other (or trying to talk to each other), and revealing their inner selves (or trying to). The fact that the central character is a deaf mute, though, shows us just how problematic communication can be, especially for characters who have trouble finding their words, or characters who speak differently. The characters in this book are a group of misfits who try to express themselves and struggle to get others to understand them. But in the end, many of them fail.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How does body language play a role in the novel – does it lead to increased misunderstandings? Is it used as a substitute for verbal communication?
  2. Doctor Copeland refuses to speak in the dialect that other African Americans use in the novel – how is this detail central to understanding his character?
  3. Are there times when any of these characters simply refuses to communicate? What might this tell us about the character?
  4. What do Singer's four friends talk about to him? Are their choices of subject matter revealing in any way?
  5. Can you think of any miscommunications or misunderstandings in the novel? When do these occur? Why do they occur?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

All the characters in the novel are chronically unable to express themselves or understand others.

None of the characters want actual friends; instead, they want exactly what they get in Singer – a silent, non-judgmental listener, a sort of living diary they can confide in.

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