I gravitate toward some book titles. Such titles are often the ones that could pass off as complete sentences. Type the title of this book on your word processor and I doubt that it would alert a grammatical error.
Book titles that elicit some profound feeling also attract me. Well, this is a subjective experience. I do not know what you feel about Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge and Joyce Carol Oates’s Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart. No, the latter does not sound like a real complete sentence, but there are strong feelings evoked in me.
Anyway, since I fell in love with the title of Carson McCuller’s book, does this mean that it speaks of who I am? Or does it merely describe the events in the novel?
This book is about five people who are dealing with their loneliness. Their circumstances vary but still, they are lonely. Some live their lives literally alone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are lonely. There are even people who are surrounded by their family and friends, and are yet engulfed by loneliness.
The lead character is John Singer, a deaf-mute yet indispensable worker. Yes, it’s ironic that his last name is Singer when he could not even hear or speak. Which is not so ironic at all because his heart sings to four lonely people.
But what makes these people lonely? The inability to speak, unshared ambitions and intelligence, death, alienation within a social class, and radicalism are some of the things that could make people lonely. And how can one drive away loneliness?
By seeking other lonely people? Not necessarily, but yes, that could work too. In the novel, the four people that are drawn to Singer and seek specifically him to vent out the emotions that are bursting inside their chests. They communicate their thoughts to our deaf-mute, who only have these deadpan expressions that the four misconstrue for understanding.
And do these four people know that Singer has his own share of loneliness? I don’t think so. I get the feeling that they just go on and on without even considering that Singer might be tired of their whining. Can we conclude then that loneliness breeds selfishness? Do they come hand in hand?
What I think is this. Loneliness visits a person who rarely communicates his thoughts and feelings to others. And lonely people can only communicate so well with the same lonely people. They have the feeling that they are comrades, that they are the only people who could truly understand them.
So I take back what I said. The four people who find comfort in Singer must have known all along, but they are too absorbed in their own issues. As long as they could talk, as long as there is someone who would indulge them, they can go through another day.
And what happens if they lose their dear Singer?
Aside from loneliness, I think this novel speaks strongly about delusion and disillusionment. I remember one scene where one of the characters, Mick Kelly, makes an improvised violin. Well, Mick loves music so much. She tries to learn the piano despite her lack of resources, and she can only listen to the music that she loves through one of her neighbor’s radio.
Which sucks because poverty is getting in the way of her love for music. And isn’t that scenario common to most of us? In this country, that is no longer surprising. People just shrug it off. One really has to work his way out of poverty before he can pursue what he loves. Which can make people watch their years go wasted. Which can make people desperate. Which can make people lonely.
I read somewhere that McCullers is a frustrated pianist, similar to Mick Kelly. She was supposed to study at Juilliard, the top school for music majors. But somehow, she was not able to pay for her tuition.
It’s almost always like that. But thanks to that, she was able to produce this profoundly written novel.