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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) is the debut novel by the American author Carson McCullers; she was 23 at the time of publication. It is about a deaf man named John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the US state of Georgia.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
First edition
AuthorCarson McCullers
CountryUnited States
PublisherHoughton Mifflin
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages356 pp



The title comes from the poem "The Lonely Hunter" by the Scottish poet William Sharp, who used the pseudonym "Fiona MacLeod": Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still, But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Plot introductionEdit

The book begins with a focus on the relationship between two close friends, John Singer and Spiros Antonapoulos. The two are described as deaf-mutes who have lived together for several years. Antonapoulos becomes mentally ill, misbehaves, and despite attempts at intervention from Singer, is eventually put into an insane asylum away from town. Now alone, Singer moves into a new room.

The remainder of the narrative centers on the struggles of four of John Singer's acquaintances: Mick Kelly, a tomboyish girl who loves music and dreams of buying a piano; Jake Blount, an alcoholic labor agitator; Biff Brannon, the observant owner of a diner; and Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, an idealistic black physician.


When published in 1940, the novel created a literary sensation and enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the bestseller lists; it was the first in a string of works by McCullers that give voice to those who are rejected, forgotten, mistreated or oppressed.

The Modern Library ranked the novel seventeenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time included it in "TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005".[1] In 2004 the novel was selected for Oprah's Book Club.


A film adaptation was made in 1968, starring Alan Arkin, Sondra Locke and Cicely Tyson.

A stage adaptation of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter premiered on March 30, 2005, at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. The show ran until April 24 of that year, then toured. The play was an Alliance Theater presentation done in association with The Acting Company out of New York. The play, adapted by Rebecca Gilman, was directed by Doug Hughes.[2][3][4]

British artist Joe Simpson made McCullers's book the centerpiece of his 2014 painting, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. The painting shows two characters each reading the book on the London Underground; it is one of his ongoing series of paintings entitled, "London".[5]


  1. ^ Lacayo, Richard (2005-10-16). "Best Books of ALL TIME | All-TIME 100 Novels". Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-11-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) | For a discussion of some of the issues raised by this production, both for directors and actors
  3. ^ Heart Tour Program: The Acting Company
  4. ^ Variety
  5. ^ Joe Simpson "Joe Simpson - The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Oil on Canvas" "2014"

External linksEdit