“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. ” * Albert Einstein The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a book describing and reflecting upon the problems in the southern United States in the 1930’s. The problems that the author, Carson McCullers, analyzes include alcoholism, labor unions, racial bias, as well as the many problems that economic instability can create. McCullers depicts each problem in a very realistic manner connecting one character with one specific issue. The reader identifies with each character because the social problems the characters face have not gone away.
Americans still fight for economic justice and racial equality. Labor unions are still demonized by big corporations. These issues have not gone away. The most overbearing problem- in the 1930’s and currently- is the economy. Poverty prevents a main character in this novel, Mick Kelly, from being able to follow her dream. Mick loves music more than anything in the world: “The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen… Now that it was over there was only her heart beating like a rabbit and this terrible hurt. (145) Micks feels so passionately about music that she wants to absorb as much as possible. She wants to pursue her dream of music, however, her father does not have a stable income and her mother works very hard for very little. This situation restrains Mick from being able to pursue her dreams by not allowing her to get the adequate instructions and opportunities she needs. The fact the Mick grows up working instead of in an environment where she cannot take music lessons or have the opportunity to follow her dreams, holds her from achieving greatness.
The working class not only had to deal with the poverty but also labor unions. Jake Blount is a confused and mentally unstable man who spends his first few weeks in town drunk. Blount has many ideas that he is constantly speaking about: “words came out of his throat like a cataract” (13). Blount is upset with company’s treatment of the middle class and finds it necessary to tell most everyone in his presence. He believes that America should enact socialist reforms. He is constantly encouraging the revolts of middle class workers to revolt as a reaction to the treatment in the workplace.
Another prominent problem that McCullers identifies is institutionalized racism. Dr. Copeland’s solution is education and fighting against the inequity: “In the face of brutality I was prudent. Before injustice I held my peace. I sacrificed the things in hand for the good of the hypothetical whole. I believed in the tongue instead of the fist. As armor against oppression I taught patience and faith in the human soul. I know now how wrong I was. I have been a traitor to myself and my people. All that is rot. Now is the time to act and to act quickly.
Fight cunning with cunning and might with might. ” (301-302) Dr. Copeland when first dealing with racism would attempt to find peace and submit to the criticism. As time went on in his life he realizes the best option is to fight the injustice. Not only has the problem held true to today’s society, but his solution to the problem has become a reality. The problems the characters experienced then are still prevalent today. Poverty is an issue that is one of the focus of society. According to San Jose University the unemployment rate in the Great Depression peaked at 23%.
The current unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is at 9. 2%. While these numbers are different, they are still both very high. McCullers approaches this subject in very realistic and connecting method. The perspective in the 1930’s, Mick Kelly is one that many kids are facing today. Kids today and 1930’s face the problem of wanting to pursue their dreams but instead must work to support their family. This leads to unequal social statuses of children from varying backgrounds. Not only has the poverty remained present, labor unions have as well.
Labor unions continue to be demonized by large companies. Since the 1930’s labor union membership had been steadily decreasing until the beginning of the current economic recession. The fact that McCullers took the time to analyze such a problem that still exists today show how perceptive she was socially of the world around her. Institutionalized racism is a subject that is no longer prevalent today. The reason that the issue has decreased is because solution of fighting the injustice has taken effect.
The current American president, Barack Obama, has dealt with the problems that McCullers describes. He has also taken the solution that McCullers implements through Dr. Copeland and has become the American president. McCullers identifies the possibility of the success and offers the solution. The problems of society are not taken lightly by anyone. McCullers broaches the problems in a careful yet aggressive manner. She paints a powerful picture of each issue allowing the reader to connect with each problem even sixty years after writing the book.
It does not take a genius to realize that the problems that McCullers examines and even offers solutions for come problems that are still prominent in today’s society. The specifics of the economy, labor unions, and racial bias have evolved with the rest of the country, but the fact that the problems are still here is a testament to the social awareness of McCullers while she was writing The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. While McCullers did not actually change these issues, she brought to light struggles that many Americans are facing today.