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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

by Carson McCullers

Race Theme

It's no surprise that a novel written in and about the American South would have something to say about race. It's just about everywhere in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but while the novel has both black and white characters interacting, it is about much more than race relations. McCullers is too busy focusing on her characters' humanity. Indeed, African American author Richard Wright praised Carson for her "astonishing humanity that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern Fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice as those of her own race." (Source.) In doing so, McCullers sheds light on the fact that many of the novel's white characters are completely unconcerned with or even oblivious to the issues of race, which makes them unthinkingly reinforce the unfortunate status quo that dominated the South before the Civil Rights Movement.

Questions About Race

  1. Outside of Copeland's plot, is race dealt with very much in the novel? Do any other characters talk about race outright? What do they say?
  2. Do these characters have problems interacting with other racial groups? If so, what kinds of problems do they have?
  3. What is Singer's view of race? How can you tell?
  4. What sort of future does Copeland envision for "his people"? Does this future seem achievable?
  5. What is Blount and Copeland's political disagreement about, and how does race factor in to their dispute?
  6. For which character does race seem to be the biggest issue?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

McCullers' black characters don't do much to challenge the racist status quo in the novel. She depicts them as complicit in the town's racist attitudes.

This is not a novel about race. Rather The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter uses the issue of race to tackled the larger issue of identity.

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