The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: Questions & Answers
The relationships at the end of Part One are entirely unexpected given what we know of the main characters up to this point. We know that they are lonely creatures that consider themselves outside society's grasp. Whether their emotions boil over with rage (like Jake), superiority (like Doctor Copeland), resignation (like Biff) or insecure longing (like Mick), these people have rejected their community, and chosen instead to stand outside of it.
But then, they become friends with Singer. Why do these outsiders come back again and again to Singer's room? You can't help but wonder how it ever happened in the first place. Suddenly, these loners, Jake and Biff and Mick and Benedict, find themselves needing Singer, desirous of his company, compelled to reach out to him, friendly despite themselves. Why all of a sudden do they want to hear themselves speak or need the look of kindness in Singer's eyes? They are transformed by his presence.
A confluence of events has changed Singer's position in this society. As the book opens, the deaf-mute has been living in town for ten years, content to spend his days catering to his oblivious friend Antonapoulos. In this we learn that Singer has much of himself to give. Despite the fact that Antonapoulos rarely speaks to Singer and becomes increasingly hostile as his personality destabilizes, Singer has the loyalty of a dog to his master. It is only when Antonapoulos is institutionalized after several nasty episodes that Singer resigns himself to life without his friend—and still he takes all his free time to visit Antonapoulos in the asylum.
Does Singer do this because he is particularly fond of Antonapoulos? It is unlikely since the Greek is characterized as a distinctly unlikable person. Instead, this implies how much Singer wishes to be a friend and have a friend. Once he moves into the Kelly house, this same energy flows off him. He becomes no less than a magnet for other dispossessed people. Singer desires to be a friend, to have a friend and suddenly, "by midsummer, Singer had visitors more often than any other person in the house." (p. 90) Singer is the only one of the main characters who is repeatedly described by his eyes, which are "quick and intelligent," "gentle as a cat's" and "grave as a sorcerer's," and his smile, which Mick waits for and Jake notices whenever they spend time together.
Could the very act of looking friendly have drawn out otherwise solitary people—like moths to a flame? When you think about it, there couldn't really be any other explanation. By Singer's example, other lonely hearts are inspired to be a friend and have a friend.
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