Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Just as McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) and The Member of the Wedding (1946) have a frustrated, lonely adolescent girl as a central character, so, too, does “Wunderkind.” Similarly, as with numerous other characters in McCullers’s fiction, Frances’s suffering is largely caused by the manner in which others she cares about perceive her, and by the crippling influence these perceptions have on her own self-image and development.

Called a Wunderkind by Mr. Bilderbach for three years, since their first interactions as student and teacher, then gradually identified as such by the man’s older students as well, Frances’s potential for greater, more mature personal and artistic growth is undercut because she is understandably hungry for such praise and adopts it as essential to her identity before she understands the great demands and costs such success requires, if it is to be more than merely titular. While McCullers suggests that Frances does possess an extraordinary natural talent as a pianist, she makes it clear that the teacher of such a gifted student must himself have extraordinary professional talent. In this regard, it becomes apparent to the reader that Mr. Bilderbach, because of a significant lack in his personal life, is not equipped to guide Frances toward the realization of mature artistic achievement; he is unable to teach her how to fuse style with content, form with substance.


(The entire section is 516 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Alienation and Loneliness
It is almost a convention for stories about adolescence to express themes of ‘‘alienation,’’...

(The entire section is 1115 words.)