"For a while [Singer's] thoughts lingered in the town he was leaving behind him. He saw Mick and Doctor Copeland and Jake Blount and Biff Brannon. The faces crowded in on him out of the darkness so that he felt smothered."— from The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
As the relationship between Singer and his four confidants, Jake, Biff, Mick and Doctor Copeland, blossoms in the early section of Part Two, it's hard not to feel excited by the connection Singer makes with each one. Mick comes away from Singer's rooms heard, and the others feel the same. For this host of lonely people, there seems hope that they can find comfort in each other. For Singer, who has lost his best friend to insanity, his new stature in the town would appear to be a blessing. Once, he was an outcast—little recognized or understood. As the novel progresses, Singer becomes something of a known personality. It would be easy to assume that his friendship with each person, in turn, would lead to a clique developing—a "lonely hunters" club, of sorts.
Instead, when all four of Singer's friends come by at the same time, it's an awkward disaster: "Singer moved around the room with smiles and refreshments and did his best in the way of politeness to make his guests comfortable. But something was wrong." (p. 210) Rather than join up together in some sort of camaraderie, "Singer is bewildered" by the fact that these people who normally have "so much to say" are completely silent when together.
We also learn that while developing friendships might seem like a positive thing for Singer to do, it's actually very difficult for him. He professes on several occasions not to understand what these people want from him or why they behave as they do. Rather than seek comfort in his new community, Singer sinks deeper and deeper into a longing for his first, and as it turns out only friend, Antonapoulos. "This submerged communion with Antonapoulos had grown and changed as though they were together in the flesh." (p. 322) Singer thinks of Antonopoulos "always with love unchecked by criticism, freed of will." All the emotion he might hope to feel for the other people, he appropriates to his relationship with his mute friend instead. The very act of others reaching out to him—which might have seemed a good thing in the beginning—eventually results in Singer's mortal wound.
Readers may be wondering: Why do none of these characters embrace friendship when given the chance? Mick, Jake, Biff and the Doctor may come to Singer's room but they neither truly befriend him, nor each other. The loneliness that pervades their interactions at the beginning is the state in which they remain. In all of their "hunting," their hearts haven't changed. How does a "sensible man" (p. 359) reconcile his life? Read Carson's bittersweet finale, and find out!
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Discover more about this town full of 'lonely hunters' with a map of characters.