The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Part 2: Chapter 1 Summary
- Mick is having the best summer ever. She's constantly busy with thoughts and plans and she feels excited, like change is on its way.
- She still thinks about music all the time and spends her days roaming the town with Ralph and Bubber.
- She and Bubber go to the library a lot since Bubber loves to read and Mick loves to look at pictures of far-off places in National Geographic. Shmoop loves doing both of those things, too.
- At night, Mick sneaks off to do exciting things by herself.
- One night,Mick is hurrying out when her dad stops her.
- Mick's dad was a painter and a carpenter before he was badly injured while working. Now he can't find another job so he tries to pick up odd jobs and repair watches from the Kelly house.
- Mick suddenly feels bad for her dad: she realizes that he's lonely and that he feels out of place in the family. So, in true good-daughter form, she delays going out and has a nice long chat with her dad.
- But later, of course, Mick escapes and wanders around the town by herself.
- She's confident that she can beat up or outrun anyone who gives her trouble.
- So, what is Mick up to? Well, it's not as scandalous as it seems – she's wandering over to the wealthier part of town to listen to people's radios. She goes to the houses where classical music plays most frequently.
- This is just how she rolls.
- Mick attends Vocational high school and studies algebra, Spanish, and English. She helps Bubber learn some Spanish, too.
- Mick doesn't have friends at her new school, so she decides to throw a "prom party" to meet people. It's the night of the party and her house is decked out in autumn colored crepe paper.
- Quick clarification: a prom party here isn't like a senior prom as we think of it. Prom also means "to walk" as in "promenade," and at parties like this, boys would take turns "promming" or walking with girls they liked.
- Mick's parents and Portia help her get ready for the party and agree to stay out of the kids' way.
- Mick borrows one of Etta's old dresses to wear. She gets dressed super early and we can almost picture her belting out "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story.
- The guests arrive and, in typical middle school party fashion, the girls stand together along one wall while the boys stand together along another wall.
- Mick announces that it's time to prom: commence awkwardness.
- Finally, the boys all rush one girl to sign her prom card, and then move on en masse to another girl. Herd mentality at work.
- Harry Minowitz asks Mick to prom – he's a Jewish boy who lives on her street and is a few years older than she.
- Some neighborhood kids show up to watch the party, which makes Mick a bit wary.
- Harry and Mick go on their prom and chat. We learn that Mick is now thirteen and Harry is fifteen.
- Harry rants about how he hates fascists, and Mick talks a bit about music.
- Then the neighborhood kids invade the party and things get crazy. (So, it's kind of like every teen party in every teen movie ever made.)
- Portia thinks this party is awesome and says she's going to stay to watch it.
- Pretty soon, the Vocational kids are running amuck playing with the neighborhood kids, and Mick realizes they aren't so different after all. She joins in and starts running around and yelling.
- "The idea of the party was over entirely now. This was just a regular playing-out. But it was the wildest night she had ever seen. The kids had caused it. They were like a catching sickness, and their coming to the party made all the other people forget about high school and being almost grown." (2.1.115)
- In all the chaos, Mick takes a tumble and hurts herself, then announces that the party is over.
- She goes inside and changes out of Etta's now-ruined dress and back into her shorts for the last time.
- That night, she goes for a walk and heads to the house that plays her favorite radio programs. This time, she hears Beethoven's Third Symphony, and it's a life changing experience.
- "Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be. The whole world was this symphony and there was not enough of her to listen." (2.1.131). Now that's some powerful commentary.
- Mick falls asleep outside while thinking over the symphony. She wakes up later that night and hurries home, hearing the music inside her mind.
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