The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Part 1: Chapter 2 Summary
- One night in the early summer, a guy named Biff Brannon is hanging out behind the cash register of the New York Café, which is pretty much the only local hotspot. Biff is the owner of the café.
- He acts like he's friends with Mad-Eye Moody since he's all about "constant vigilance."
- Biff is a people-watcher extraordinaire, and he pays careful attention to a short guy who is rapidly getting really drunk. Apparently, this café serves drinks of all kinds.
- After surveying the scene, Biff heads upstairs to grab a suitcase.
- His wife Alice wakes up and starts nagging him about the drunk guy, named Blount.
- The two bicker for a while and Biff calmly tells Alice off for being annoying. Alice (less calmly) tells Biff off for being stupid. And then Frank Sinatra starts singing "Love and Marriage" Just kidding.
- Biff finishes shaving and sprucing himself up and then heads back downstairs with Jake Blount's suitcase.
- We learn that Biff works the night-shift while Alice works during the day. Hence, the sleeping.
- Jake is still downstairs talking about politics – socialism to be exact.
- Biff starts skimming a newspaper that discusses the "war in the Orient." For all you history buffs, that's Japan's war with China in the late 1930s.
- It's after midnight when a young girl around twelve years old comes in with two little boys. Her name is Mick Kelly. Biff is a fan of hers – she comes from a very large, poor family.
- Mick buys a pack of cigarettes. (Ah, the good old days, when cigarettes were good for you. Or so said the advertising agencies.)
- At this point, Jake drunkenly stumbles up to chat and starts rambling about Singer.
- Mick reveals that Singer lives with her family at their boarding house, and then she peaces out, while Jake keeps drunkenly talking and eventually stumbles outside.
- Meanwhile, Biff ponders life and the universe and decides that he likes people that are different. Okay, then.
- Jake pops back in with a new friend – a black doctor – and some guys start yelling about the doctor's presence: "Don't you know you can't bring no nigger in a place where white men drink?" (1.2.68) Yikes.
- This was clearly before the whole Civil Rights movement reared is glorious head. For more background on this time period, check out what we have to say about the Jim Crow Era.
- The doctor quickly leaves and Jake starts ranting about racism and communism, his favorite subjects.
- He then starts talking to Singer and everyone laughs; Jake doesn't realize that Singer is deaf.
- Jake then staggers out again and a young black kid named Willie who works in the kitchen comes in later to report that Jake got into a fight. Why are we not surprised?
- Turns out Willie is related to the black doctor who was dragged in earlier.
- A cop hauls Jake back in, and Singer comes up and volunteers to take Jake home with him. He writes a note to Biff explaining his intent.
- Finally the sun starts to rise and Biff goes back upstairs to sleep, while Alice preps for Sunday school.
- Biff snottily and sarcastically tells her to keep making noise because he doesn't want to sleep or anything. (Hey, we're all guilty of being grouchy when we're tired.)
- Alice finally leaves, and Biff conks out.
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