Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Reflections in a Golden Eye was published one year after Carson McCullers’s brilliant and well-received first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940). The second work was often harshly criticized for dealing with morbid and depressing subjects, as well as for its grotesque characters. As evidence that McCullers was interested only in the darkest side of human nature, her detractors pointed to such incidents as in the novel as Alison Langdon’s cutting off her nipples with gardening shears and Weldon Penderton’s putting a purring kitten into a frozen mailbox.

Southern playwright Tennessee Williams, McCullers’s friend, came to her defense. In an introduction to a later edition of the work, he explained that the world itself is full of morbidity and grotesqueness and that McCullers’s novel encapsulates those qualities in a tiny space, thereby intensifying their effects.

Admirers of Reflections in a Golden Eye have also praised its economy. In 110 pages, McCullers paints thorough portraits of three characters: Captain Penderton, Private Williams, and Alison Langdon. Even characters who are less thoroughly drawn pique the reader’s interest. This is especially true of the Filipino houseboy, Anacleto, who adores and emulates his mistress, even straining with her during labor. His dedication to her is both admirable and perverse.

Reflections in a Golden Eye explores the problems inherent in...

(The entire section is 551 words.)