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MonkeyNotes-The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
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Notes

In chapter three, McCullers introduces Mick Kellyís private life. Mick Kelly is the figure of the artist in the story, a sort of stand in for McCullers herself, except that Mickís mode is music not words. McCullers describes in compelling detail the difficulties of being an artist for a poor girl in the South. Mick wants a piano, an expense her parents clearly will never be able to afford. She doesnít even have a radio to listen to the music she loves. She has no training in music either. Her love of the art comes from within and she has no means of expressing it. Her attempt to make a violin out of a broken ukulele reveals both her naiveté as a child and the great odds against her ever having the chance to express herself in music.

Mick also loves Mr. Singer. Like others in the novel, she sees what she wants to see in Mr. Singer. In her case, it is that he hears a special kind of music because he is deaf. She sits outside his room waiting for him to notice her, hoping he will invite her inside. When he glances at her and nods, she builds up the gesture as an affirmation of her existence. It is clear that Mick is one of the lonely people of the novelís title.


McCullers introduces all the characters of Mickís life in this introductory chapter. She is a young girl, but because her family is so poor and her mother so overwhelmed with work, she is responsible for her two younger brothers, one of whom is an infant. McCullers describes with sensitive realism the kind of care a young girl like Mick can give to an infant. For instance, when Ralph cries, she tells her other brother Bubber to shake him to get him to stop. She takes her responsibility to her brothers seriously and cares for them as well as she can, but it is clear that all three children are neglected. Mickís older sisters appear as star struck and pathetic in their attempts to be stars while sitting in a run-down boarding house. Mick has chosen not to follow in their footsteps and wears shorts long past the time it is generally appropriate for a young girl to wear shorts. She looks boyish and wishes she were a boy. Her older brother Billís freedom in the house is one reason she might wish for this, but the alternative of her older sisters is probably the greatest deterrent. Her mother appears for one of the only times in the novel here. She is a harassed and overworked woman who has little time for her children, much less herself.

Portia, the hired housekeeper, seems to be a sort of mother substitute for Mick and the other younger children. The constructions of race come up obliquely. Mick is skeptical that Portiaís father could be a doctor since she has no experience with educated African Americans. She thinks of Portia as "niggery" but okay. Portia, for her own part, seems to be a woman who has put all her hopes and dreams into her church and her family. She talks to the children as she works and therefore seems to be the only adult influence on their lives. She advises Mick to find someone to love she so can get some sense of rootedness in her life. As Mick leaves her, she thinks over all the people she has passionately loved. The present one is Mr. Singer.

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