The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Once Upon a Time
The first chapter of this novel serves as a prologue to our story, introducing us to Singer and setting the stage for when he meets our four main characters. In some ways, this part of the story reads like a fairy tale: once upon a time, there were two best friends…
This Town's Got Problems
After the dreamy introduction, we get a series of chapters detailing our main characters: Mick, Biff, Doctor Copeland, and Jake Blount. All four suffer from internal conflicts and all, aside from Jake, have trouble dealing with their family members. Singer, meanwhile, spends his time feeling confused by these weirdos.
Bad to Worse
Things go from bad to worse when Baby Wilson gets shot (accidentally, but still). Everyone's life just gets more complicated around this time: Mick's family is in turmoil because Bubber was the culprit; Biff suffers over his niece's shooting and his wife's earlier death; Doctor Copeland's son is jailed for a minor crime; Jake struggles with detoxing; and Singer desperately misses Antonapoulos.
To Each His Own
Since we have a series of stories running in tandem, it makes sense that we get a climax for each character. Mick has sex with Harry Minowitz, Doctor Copeland and Jake get into a heated argument, and Singer finds out that Antonapoulos has died.
The major question is how everyone will deal with their struggles. How will Mick handle her first sexual encounter? How will Copeland and Jake deal with their not-so-accepted passions? How will Biff handle his continually confused emotions? And how will Singer cope with his loneliness?
Wait, shouldn't the conclusion, not the denouement be the end? Well, not in this book. There is a real sense of endings in the denouement in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: Mick's childhood effectively ends when she accepts a full-time job to help her family; Doctor Copeland's illness worsens, and his career is basically over; and of course, Singer commits suicide, which effectively concludes the novel. (Read on to hear about the conclusion, but we think that everything after Singer's suicide is more of an epilogue. Do you agree?)
The conclusion to this novel is more of a discussion of new beginnings. In the aftermath of Singer's suicide, our main four characters assess their lives and make some big changes: Doctor Copeland leaves town, Jake runs from town after a deadly riot, Mick struggles with her new job and life as an adult, and Biff soldiers on at the diner… for now. What do you think is next for our four musketeers?