The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
Lucile is like a mash-up of of various old Hollywood roles – the crazy show-biz mom, the abused wife, the selfish schemer, the opportunistic girl from the "wrong side of the tracks. You name it, she is it. If you couldn't tell, she's a pretty negative depiction of women in this era.
Lucile is focused almost wholly on her kid – helicopter mom, anyone? – and she wants Baby to achieve all that she wasn't able to in life. As a result, she manages the poor girl within an inch of her life and basically turns her into a spoiled brat.
"I feel like I got to push Baby all I can. Because the sooner she gets started on her career the better it'll be for both of us."
"You don't understand. A child with talent can't be treated like ordinary kids." (126.96.36.199-33)
Lucile is practically like a pageant mom: she gives her four-year-old perms and costumes and is quick to point out child stars in the movies. Her materialism comes out in full force after Baby gets shot. Instead of worry about, say, Baby's health, Lucile is horrified by the possible harm it's done to Baby's "career." She ends up making the Kellys (who aren't rolling in dough, mind you) pay for extraneous expenses, like a perm reimbursement – no joke. Seems kind of useless and petty to us.
Lucile and Her Gentlemen
Speaking of unhealthy relationships, how about Lucile's relationship with her ex-husband? Lucile has had a rough time of it, and she definitely knows it:
"You see, Bartholomew, that's why I got to be like I have blinders on all the time so as not to think backwards or sideways. All I can let my mind stay on is going to work every day and fixing three meals here at home and Baby's career." (2.2.69)
Lucile might be kind of a villain toward the Kellys (though can we really blame her?), but she definitely gets plenty of screen time as a victim.
Luckily, she has at least one semi-normal relationship to balance everything out. Lucile is a friend to Biff, and she provides us with great insight into his character. And their platonic friendship is particularly interesting in the confines of the novel, since we don't see a lot of healthy male/female interaction in the book.