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- Teaching The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
My fail resulted in this character tracking assignment for novels that have multiple main characters whose stories are weaved throughout the text. Each student was assigned one of the main characters—in the case of this novel, each main character is also a narrator—Biff Brannon, Mick Kelly, John Singer, Dr. Benedict Copeland, or Jake Blount.
We spent three weeks on the novel and students were responsible for that character for the entire text. So those were the broader concerns guiding students reading. Each week the discussion board questions followed the same three part breakdown. Who is your character? What do we know about him or her? What events seem to be important to who they are so far, and why? Again, which of these interactions seem most important and why?
These questions, while the most simplistic of the semester, enabled students to gain insights into their characters and to become much more questioning of the interactions their character had with others. This lead them back to those much broader question for the unit, and many of their initial post and responses were working through the power structures at play for their character.
Week 2: The guiding concept for the second week of the text was more focused on plot. I asked students to reflect on plot elements, such as the 5Cs: conflict, complication, crisis, climax, and conclusion.
With their character as their main focus for their primary prompt, they wrote about various subplots and there was disagreements between students working with the same character as to which events were the most pivotal to for their character. This is where the conversation really began to analyze those power structures. I became responsible for checking their expectations against some of the realities of the time period.
This week we are going to continue thinking about their development, but more specifically who are they by the end of the novel? How has your character grown or developed throughout the novel? What outcome were you expecting for your character versus the outcome that we are given? Why use evidence from the text to support your position? Overall, students had big plans for their characters. I challenged them to really set up those expectations from the text, not from their own ideals being projected onto the characters. Students invested in this novel and these characters more than I had previously seen.
Benedict Copeland for his outcome, even though students understood his dilemma. That said, they were beginning to understand him towards the end. This sustained activity resulted in no plot or character confusion and put students in a position to more securely call one another out on questionable statements or weaker arguments because they had a slightly more refined knowledge from which to draw and because they were ready to defend their character to the end.
We were also able to move into in depth discussions much more quickly because that comfort with a single character gave them a needed focus.
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I know this sounds odd, but it is pretty awesome to watch play out. Step 1: Start with what the students have in front of them. These two covers are the ones that appear on the most recent editions of the novel, so they make a good place to start. The peaches can be tied to John Singer and his relationship with Spiros Antonapoulos, but they are definitely an odd choice. Or, are the peaches referencing McCullers as a Georgia writer? But, at the same time, why put an author on the cover of her novel? These are the types of basic and cover specific questions I like to open with when discussing the covers with students.
Step 2: Find other cover images. After discussing the recent covers, I bring in covers from other editions of the novel. This is more helpful than doing a Google image search because it provides the publication company and year for each edition I always cross reference to make sure the information is correct.
Her stories have been adapted to stage and film. A stagework of her novel The Member of the Wedding , which captures a young girl's feelings at her brother's wedding, made a successful Broadway run in — Her father was a watchmaker and jeweler of French Huguenot descent.
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From the age of ten she took piano lessons; when she was fifteen her father gave her a typewriter to encourage her story writing. Smith graduated from Columbus High School.
In September , at age 17, she left home on a steamship bound for New York City , planning to study piano at the Juilliard School of Music. After losing the money she was going to use to study at Juilliard on the subway, she decided instead to work, take night classes, and write. She worked several odd jobs, including as a waitress and a dog walker. In she published her first work. From to , as her studies and health dictated, she divided her time between Columbus and New York. In September , aged 20, she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. A New Yorker profile described her husband as "..
The couple made a pact to each take turns as writer then breadwinner, starting with Reeves taking a salaried position while McCullers wrote. Her eventual success as a writer precluded his literary ambitions.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Maxim Lieber was her literary agent in and intermittently thereafter. At the time the novel was thought to suggest an anti- Fascist message. She sold the book to Harper's Bazaar for five hundred dollars in August of It was published in two parts in Harper's Bazaar in October and November. In The Member of the Wedding , McCullers describes the feelings of a young girl at her brother's wedding.
The Broadway stage adaptation of the novel had a successful run in —51 and was produced by the Young Vic in London in September Many know her works largely by their film adaptations. Huston, in his autobiography, An Open Book , said:. Carson lived nearby, and one day when Buzz and I were out for a walk she hailed us from her doorway. She was then in her early 20s, and had already suffered the first of a series of strokes.
I remember her as a fragile thing with great shining eyes, and a tremor in her hand as she placed it in mine. It wasn't palsy, rather a quiver of animal timidity. But there was nothing timid or frail about the manner in which Carson McCullers faced life. And as her afflictions multiplied, she only grew stronger. Carson and Reeves McCullers divorced in She became a member of February House , an art commune in Brooklyn. Her close friends during these years included Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.
During this period of separation, Reeves had a love relationship with the composer David Diamond , and the two lived together in Rochester, NY. She fell in love with a number of women and pursued them sexually with great aggression, but seems not to have succeeded in having sex with any of them. Her most documented and extended love obsession was with Annemarie Schwarzenbach of whom she once wrote "She had a face that I knew would haunt me for the rest of my life.
McCullers' passion, however, was not reciprocated, and the two remained friends with McCullers dedicating her next novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye , to her. But if that was the case, she never mentioned it to any of her gay friends. In the absence of reciprocated lesbian love and the inability to consummate lesbian sex, McCullers still wore a lesbian persona in literature and in life.
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In , Carson and Reeves McCullers remarried. Three years later, while severely depressed, she attempted suicide. In Reeves tried to convince her to commit suicide with him, but she fled and Reeves killed himself in their Paris hotel with an overdose of sleeping pills. This break from the reported story of his sudden death by heart attack was first published in by Virginia Spencer Carr in the preface to her updated biography, The Lonely Hunter.
McCullers dictated her unfinished autobiography, Illumination and Night Glare , during the final months of her life. McCullers suffered throughout her life from several illnesses and from alcoholism. She had rheumatic fever at the age of 15 and suffered from strokes that began in her youth. By the age of 31 her left side was entirely paralyzed.
Teaching The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
She lived the last twenty years of her life in Nyack, New York , where she died on September 29, , at the age of 50, after a brain hemorrhage. She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. Although McCullers's style is often described as Southern Gothic , she produced her famous works after leaving the South.