First edition, first printing with the date on the title page of the author’s first novel and masterpiece.

Carson McCullers published The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) when she was twenty-three. It follows deaf John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the US state of Georgia. The narrative primarily centers around John’s acquaintances, and McCullers enriches it through a limited-omniscient tone that is highly episodic. Chapters focus on individual characters and access his or her thoughts, yet the tone is limited to one character’s inner dialogue at a time. The effect is gossipy, and it contributes to the sense of ruralness that McCullers portrays. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter also exemplifies the Southern gothic genre. It mixes traditional gothic elements — mystery, suspense, the grotesque, the supernatural — and locates them in the American South. This genre was very popular when the novel was written, with contemporaries like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor writing in a comparable style.The Southern gothic craze extended to film as well. Faulkner and Tennessee Williams acquired movie adaptations in the 1950’s and ’60s.

Carson McCuller

When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter was adapted for film in 1968 it was nominated numerously, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture. Befittingly, the novel is a classic. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter seventeenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.