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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
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Minor Characters

Character Analysis

B.F. Mason

Mason is an African-American con-artist who runs a scheme involving pensions on the local black community. He goes to jail for it, but not before ripping off a lot of people who sure couldn't afford to lose their money.

Mason's story also helps to reveal a key distinction between Portia and her father: Portia is content with the knowledge that Mason will get what's coming to him in the afterlife; Copeland is discontented by the lack of justice in this life.

Buddy Copeland

Copeland's son, Buddy (given name: Karl Marx), is representative of the sort of quiet rebellion the rest of the Copeland clan undertook against the good Doctor. Buddy didn't just leave home, he moved all the way to another state (he works in Mobile, Alabama), and he adopted a completely new name.

Buster Johnson

Buster is one of Willie's friends in jail. He is locked up with Willie in the shed and ends up losing one of his feet as a result (better than Willie's fate, at least). Sadly, Buster and Willie have a falling out after the incident.

Celeste

Celeste is the first person that Mick really loved – or was infatuated/obsessed with at any rate. She was pretty and prim and very middle-class. And to the impoverished Mick, she was downright glamorous.

This lady is actually tied to Harry through a very minor, but significant, detail:

Always she had a stuffed hard-boiled egg and she would hold it in her hand, mashing the yellow with her thumb so that the print of her finger was left there. (2.9.13)

Later, Harry does something freakishly similar to Celeste, which helps to spark a connection between these two loves in Mick's mind, though Mick isn't quite able to make the link.

Harry held his stuffed egg and mashed the yellow with his thumb. What did that make her remember? She heard herself breathe. (2.11.88)

It's a very tiny detail, but it has a lot of emotional resonance for Mick.

Charles Parker

Antonapoulos' cousin is the story of immigrant Americanization in a nutshell. Charles Parker takes on an assumed name, embraces American culture (and especially money) wholeheartedly, and opts to not associate himself with his much more "foreign" cousin. This guy is the definition of assimilation.

Daisy Copeland

Daisy is Doctor Copeland's put-upon wife who showed a lot of strength of will and character by walking out on her abusive husband and raising her children as she saw fit. We never meet Daisy, as she died before the narrative starts, but her presence is strongly felt throughout the Copeland storyline in the novel.

In a way Daisy, along with Copeland's entire past life, is like a ghost that haunts him:

Years ago Daisy had walked like that around the kitchen, silent and occupied. Daisy was not black as he was – her skin had been like the beautiful color of dark honey. She was always very quiet and gentle. But beneath that soft gentleness there was something stubborn in her, and no matter how conscientiously he studied her out, he could not understand the gentle stubbornness in his wife.

He would exhort her and he would tell her all that was in his heart and still she was gentle. And still she would not listen to him but would go on her own way. (1.5.83-4)

Copeland paints a vivid picture of his wife here, both as a character in her own right and as a sort of symbol: Daisy, with her quiet strength, represents themes of memory and the past (both in her ties to Copeland's past and in her commitment to her own heritage) as well as themes of pride and a commitment to personal beliefs.

However, despite the clear image we get of Daisy from Copeland, it's still nothing more than an image. We don't really know her as a fully fleshed out character. In this respect, she's a lot like Antonapoulos: a bit mysterious and wholly defined for us by another character.

Delores Brown

Delores is Mick's piano teacher (and peer). She gives Mick a decent start in the basics of reading music, but star-power Mick quickly outpaces what Delores has to offer.

Hamilton Copeland

Hamilton is Doctor Copeland's son who lives and works on the farm with his grandfather. He's yet another figure of tradition and stasis in the African-American community, and he's one more force against Copeland's hopes for his people. (Sorry, Doc.) In the end, Hamilton's lifestyle and beliefs cause him to be estranged from his father.

Hazel Kelly

Hazel is superficial and concerned mostly with her appearance, boys, and movie stars. In other words, she's a teenaged girl. (Hey, Shmoop was there, too!) According to Mick, she's never had to work for anything – as the oldest and the prettiest, she's pretty much had everything handed to her. (Of course, Mick isn't above borrowing her sister's clothes when she starts the awkward process of growing up.) It's fitting that we don't know much about Hazel personally since she is almost completely defined by her looks.

Highboy

Highboy shadows Portia and Willie and is sort of enfolded into the Copeland saga, without a very clear identity of his own. We get hints that he's a somewhat flamboyant character – take his dress, his former evangelism, his harmonica playing, and, well, his enjoyment of partying. But he's constantly dominated and overshadowed by his wife. After the tragedy involving his brother-in-law, he pretty much recedes into the background.

John Roberts

This guy definitely doesn't get much screen time, but a brief scene with him and Jake helps to emphasize the themes of race and racism in the book:

"You one of his relatives or the preacher in his church?"

"No, I'm a pharmacist. And John Roberts on your left is employed in the postal department of the government.

"A postman," repeated John Roberts. (2.13.45-47)

Copeland gets this same sort of disbelieving reaction from people when they learn he's a doctor. But Roberts' scene with Jake helps to emphasize just how radical it was for a black man to hold any sort of professional job, even something that doesn't require as much education.

Junebug

Yet another random and hilarious name. This is the guy who gets into a fight with Willie over Love Jones: Willie goes at him with a razor at one point and badly injures the dude, earning a stint doing hard labor in jail as a result. Junebug may have instigated the fight by pulling out a knife, but he was ultimately the injured party.

Leroy Wilson

Leroy is Lucile's abusive ex-husband, times two (they got divorced and remarried twice). We never see Leroy in the story, but we're pretty sure he was a jerk:

"He said he would come home about once a month and beat hell out of you and you would take it. But then afterward you would step outside in the hall and laugh aloud a few times so that the neighbors in the other rooms would think you both had just been playing around and it had all been a joke." (2.2.68)

The themes of violence and love are all-too-closely intertwined in this novel, and Lucile's mildly disturbing feelings for her husband really emphasize that point.

Louis

Louis is the guy who just couldn't care less (he naps on the job, for crying out loud!). The cook at New York Café, Louis is pretty fleshed out for a minor character. We also think he's a pretty good guy – he maintains his congenial attitude toward his boss (Biff) even during the crazy Jake situation at the start of the novel.

Love Jones

Love Jones is an employee at Madame Reba's Palace of Sweet Pleasures (we are not making up that name), a bordello that causes a whole host of problems for Willie. Here's what Portia has to say about the gal:

"What I can't understand is how he would be messing around with that Love. She at least ten shades blacker than I is and she the ugliest nigger I ever seen. She walk like she have an egg between her legs and don't want to break it. She ain't even clean." (2.3.21)

Don't hold back there Portia, tell us how you really feel. Overall Love Jones sounds pretty trashy and we have to give her a thumbs down for her involvement in Willie's incarceration, though Willie is largely at fault for fighting over Love in the first place. Not a smart move, buddy.

But Portia's rant against Love betrays some racism of her own, judging Love by the color of her skin. Within the black community, we get a number of examples of people prizing whiteness: here, Portia considers herself superior partly because her skin is lighter. We see this attitude arise throughout the book and we're definitely not fans.

Marshall Nicholls

Nicholls and Copeland are kindred spirits – oh, and they're friends. It's not surprising that these two professional men would become friends: they're both part of a tiny middle-class of educated African Americans with white-collar jobs. Even still, Nicholls seems to disagree with Copeland on politics.

"And it behooves us to strive with care and not endanger this amicable relationship already established. Then by gradual means a better condition will come about." […]

"The Doctor in yonder has strived in every way. But sometimes it has seemed to me like he has not recognized fully enough certain elements of the different races and the situation." (2.13.50, 64)

Nicholls tries to be polite here, but he's basically saying that Copeland is just too radical. But wait, didn't Copeland say that same thing about Lancy Davis? Yeah, Copeland himself is introduced as a realist at the start of the novel: he sees the harshness of poverty in the black community and preaches progressive solutions. Why do you think McCullers sets up this contrast between the two men then?

Miss Brown

Miss Brown is a boarder at the Kellys' house who owns a radio. Mick tries to listen in, but Miss Brown is pretty inconsistent with her radio usage (what's up with that?). As a result, Mick starts wandering to different neighborhood to get her music fix.

Miss Clara

Miss Clara is the older woman who introduces Jake to socialist politics and is responsible for his intellectual "awakening."

Miss Minner

Miss Minner is Mick's English teacher, and Mick thinks she's freakishly smart. She seems like an all-around awesome teacher: challenging but fair, and totally brilliant.

Mr. Patterson

The gruff owner of the Sunny Dixie show, Patterson is Southern gothic at its finest, with its fixation on unusual people and the grotesque – he's kind of weird on his own, and the environment he inhabits is even weirder.

Mrs. Kelly

Mrs. Kelly isn't a very clearly defined character: all we know is that she's an overworked and exhausted mother who manages a boarding house. Through her, we clearly see the effects of the Depression: with men out of work, many women became the breadwinners of their families, working for low pay. Mrs. Kelly is forced to focus more on money than on her family and even still, she's struggling to keep the family afloat and fed. She doesn't have time to spare to be a mom on a more personal level.

In fact, Mrs. Kelly only has one substantial interaction with her daughter in the entire novel:

"What's the matter with you? What have you been into now?"

Mick tried to jerk loose, but her Mama held on to her arm. [...] Her Mama had been in the kitchen and she wore her apron and house-shoes. As usual she looked as though she had a lot on her mind and didn't have time to ask her any more questions. (1.3.87-8)

The lack of a strong motherly figure in Mick's life is a key detail – Mick is quite literally left to navigate the scary world of puberty on her own, which mirrors the way she feels internally. Not an easy task, that's for sure.

Mrs. Minowitz

Harry's mom barely appears in the story and when she does, she's just fretting over her son. This lady seems to be yet another stressed-out, overworked mother dealing with a lot of real-life concerns.

Pete and Sucker Wells

Pete and Sucker are two more wild kids that live in Mick's neighborhood. At one point, Pete even runs away from home and stays away for weeks. These two are just some more spice for the atmosphere of Mick's neighborhood.

Ralph Kelly

Ralph, the youngest Kelly, forces Mick into being a stand-in mom at times, since their older sisters and her mother work all day to keep the family afloat financially. Ralph helps to highlight the difficult circumstances in which Mick is growing up.

"A person's got to fight for every single thing they get," she said slowly. "And I've noticed a lot of times that the farther down a kid comes in the family the better a kid really is. Younger kids are always the toughest. [...] If all this is true Ralph sure ought to be a real strong one when he's old enough to get around." (2.5.47)

Mick's prediction for his future is probably fitting. Just like the rest of the gang, he's going to grow up in hard circumstances, and he'll have a tough time getting by.

Simms

Simms is someone you'd probably cross the street to avoid. Even Jake – who's super excited at the prospect of a new friend – is quickly disillusioned, even horrified, when he actually meets the guy:

Simms looked down at the scar in his palm. Jake leaned closer and whispered: "And there's the other sign. The sign which you know. For I was born with them."

Simms backed against the fence. [...] Jake laughed.

"Blasphemer!" Simms screamed. "God will get you. [...] God tells me things at night God will get you."

He took Simms down to the corner store for Coca-Cola and peanut-butter crackers. (2.12.6-9)

These two are quite the dynamic duo: Jake teases and tricks Simms, but takes pity on him and buys him a snack; Simms hurls insults at Jake, but still accepts the charity. In the end, Jake's contempt for Simms seems to come out of how frighteningly similar the two men are: Simms shows Jake an image of what he might become – a crazy old man spouting off wild ideas on street corners.

Spareribs

Spareribs is a grimy little boy who often runs around half-dressed. Good start. To top it off, he speaks with very colorful phrasing, and basically acts like a little hillbilly. Spareribs hangs out with Bubber Kelly a lot, and it's his new gun that Bubber uses to (accidentally) shoot Baby Wilson.

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