(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The loneliness of love and the oppressiveness of time are developed in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter through the structure of a musical fugue. Singer’s love for Antonapoulos, announced at the beginning of the novel, plays in counterpoint in the lives of Mick, Jake, Biff, and Dr. Copeland. McCullers explains that because of the fugal form, each character takes on a new richness when contrasted and woven in with the other characters; thus, according to her outline, Singer’s love for Antonapoulos “threads through the whole book from the first page until the very end.”

When Mick Kelly enters Brannon’s cafe, Brannon finds that he can no longer keep his mind on reading the newspaper because a strange, new feeling of tenderness comes to him. Mick, however, does not share his interest; instead she turns to music, which becomes linked in her mind with Singer and with love. McCullers constructs a paradigm of Mick’s character through references to music. At first the child’s love is instinctive, and she responds to music with wonder and awe. “Nothing is as good as music,” she says, and the songs of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are “the softest and saddest thing she had ever imagined about.” As Mick develops, music becomes associated with sex and traces her evolution into adulthood. Innocence is symbolized by her misspelling the composer’s name as MOTSART, and as Mick’s growing sexuality is revealed, she scribbles “a very bad word—PUSSY” on the wall of an unfinished house. For McCullers, love should be essentially Platonic, and agape, or brotherly love, is the ideal. Sexual love leaves the lover feeling incomplete, and Mick thinks of it as bad and dirty.

The final fugal voices belong to Jake Blount and Dr. Copeland,...

(The entire section is 724 words.)