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Here’s One For The Misfits

One of the things I like about The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter—at least to this point—is its representation of the misfits of society—the people who are forgotten (at worst) and underappreciated (at best).

McCullers writes about Mr. Singer, a deaf and mute man who is called “dumb and mute” by the townsfolk. There’s Mick Kelly, a tall, gangly, and awkward 14-year-old girl who takes care of her younger siblings while dreaming of a better life.

There’s Dr. Copeland, the angry and preachy African-American doctor who sees communism as the solution to racism and prejudice.

And then there’s Jake Blount, essentially the town drunk, who befriends Singer and uses the deaf man as a sounding board for his own religious and political views.

During one such episode, Blount possibly sums up the premise of the entire novel—the point of view of these people, the misfits of their community.

 “The things they have done to us! The truths they have turned into lies! The ideals they have fouled and made vile. Take Jesus. He was one of us. He knew. When He said that it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God—He damn well meant just what He said. But look at what the church has done to Jesus in the last two thousand years. What they have made of Him. How they have turned every word he spoke for their own vile ends. Jesus would be framed and in jail if He was living today. Jesus would be one who really knows. Me and Jesus would sit across the table and I would look at Him and He would look at me and we would both know that the other knew. Me and Jesus and Karl Marx could all sit at a table and -”

This theme of “knowing” and “not knowing” pops up again and again throughout The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. In extremely broad terms, the forgotten people “get it”—they know what life’s about.

McCullers represents these people well through her storytelling. But on the flip side, I think she wanders off into preachy territory sometimes, not unlike Richard Wright in Native Son.

But back to the subject of the post…can you think of any other novels that focus on stories about the “misfits” of society?

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. The Outsiders – ya novel, and a great introduction to the “misfit genre”
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower – told first person from the misfit himself
    The Awakening – Edna Pontellier feels out of place, and she develops a friendship with fellow misfit Adele Ratignolle
    Pretty much any Judy Blume book – especially for girls


    April 10, 2012
    • Good ones. It’s funny that the only one on that list I have read is a Judy Blume book.


      April 10, 2012
  2. Might be easier to ask–or answer–“which ones don’t?” I think in a way any compelling character is one who in one way or another doesn’t “fit” in society–maybe a lot, maybe a little. It’s that distinction, that difference from the ordinary, that makes them interesting to us.


    April 10, 2012
    • Good point. Flannery O’ Connor stories seem to be filled with characters that are “concentrated” amounts of the worst character traits in society and the misfits that get pushed around by them.

      Steinbeck’s books often feature lonely souls or broken people.


      April 10, 2012

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