With their spirit defeated, characters in both Carson McCullers’s novel The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and the movie Fight Club feel like slaves. The American economy and culture made characters in each novel feel hopeless, depressed, or angry. However, through their struggles, the characters discovered that love uplifted them and presented the meaning of life.
As an African American, Dr. Copeland knew how enslavement felt. His people’s apathy towards a movement for equality of black people infuriated him. He felt like a slave. “But we are forced to sell our strength, our time, our souls during almost every hour that we live. We have been freed from one kind of slavery only to be delivered into another” (Heart 191). Dr. Copeland felt like no one understood his struggles. He dealt with racism on a regular basis. White people did not want him around, and viewed black people as inferior in a number of ways, including intelligence. Dr. Copeland tried to instill his beliefs in equality in his children, but they grew apart, and his wife left him. Dr. Copeland spent much of his time trying to help his people. “The grievous love he felt within him was too much” (190). He loved black people as though they were all his family. He wanted justice, and for them finally to live as free men and women, but they could not be free until they loved their people as he did.
Mick loved music, but came from a poor family, so her musical ambitions would have to wait until she had money. She tried to make a violin, but failed and grew frustrated. Mick wanted a piano, a radio, and music lessons, but she understood that her family’s poverty made these dreams impossible at that moment. Mick lost hope. She did not love God as Portia did, and thus felt hopeless. Portia told her, “But you haven’t never loved God nor even nair person. You hard and tough as cowhide. Your heart going to beat hard enough to kill you because you don’t love and don’t have peace.” Mick needed support, and she needed to feel at peace.
Yet upon meeting Mr. Singer, she became more hopeful. Mick found a supportive God figure in Singer. It looks like Mr. Singer has peace since he does not respond to noisy fights, and it appears that Singer knows what music Mick speaks of, because he cannot say otherwise. Her relationship with Singer energized her and she found time to do practice piano and go to school. “She loved him better than anyone in the family, better even than George or her Dad” (313). Singer’s purchase of a radio increased Mick’s love or him. The radio motivated and pleased her. She was most alive when music engulfed her.
Besides her poverty, her gender also made her a slave. When her family’s fortunes worsened, Mick felt responsibility to get a job. Unfortunately, the only jobs for a girl required that she miss school. Working drained Mick of her energy, and Singer’s suicide sapped her of her liveliness as well. Singer’s supportive face disappeared. A slave again, Mick retained just a sliver of hope, that one day she would have saved enough money for a piano.
Singer’s suicide resulted from his loss of the love that he relied on. John Singer clung to people who shared his disability. As a deaf mute, he had trouble communicating and making true friends. Yet he loved his friend Antonapoulos, despite his friend’s selfish behavior. “Sometimes he thought of Antonapoulos with awe and self-abasement, sometimes with pride, and always with love unchecked by criticism, free of will” (322). With Antonapoulos away at a mental institution, Singer felt alone and became depressed. Slowly, he entered the world without Antonapoulos, and met new friends. However, his love for Antonapoulos far exceeded his love of his new friends. It seems like these friends exist for him merely to tell Antonapoulos about. Singer always looked forward to meeting his friend in the future. Antonapoulos died, so naturally, without his love, Singer had no meaning in life. Singer felt incomplete, and put a bullet in his chest.
Fight Club’s Jack also had a meaningless life. Jack could not muster any courage or mental strength. He lost all hope. “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time” (Fight Club 00:19:36). He too worked at a job that he hated. He became an insomniac with a mental illness. On one flight, Jack invented an alternate personality, a soap salesman named Tyler Durden, who worked to save him.
Jack had his life sucked out by his company. At work, he did not stand up for himself. He had to travel more than he liked, and his reports faced constant reprioritizing. Jack faced depression and insomnia. Everything seemed like “a copy of a copy of a copy” (00:04:08). Jack’s only goal was to have a fashionable wardrobe and a respectable apartment. “Like so many others, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct” (00:04:51). He wondered what kind of dining sets defined him as a person. He lost focus of his meaning for life, and sunk this low.
Jack and Tyler sought others who had hollow lives. In one scene, he found a convenience store clerk and threatened to kill him. The clerk wanted to be a veterinarian, but gave up because it took too long. He needed money. Tyler demanded that the clerk begin to follow his dream. Tyler assured Jack that the man would really begin to live then. Food would even taste better.
The fighting in the movie made the characters feel alive. No one told them what to do when they fought; they were in charge of themselves. Slavery ended.
By the end of the story, Tyler reminded Jack, “Think of everything we’ve accomplished” (00:02:59). Jack thought it over. “And suddenly, I realize that all of this: the gun, the bombs, the revolution, has got something to do with a girl named Marla Singer” (00:03:08). He saved her life, after Tyler tried to kill her. “I’m trying to tell you that I’m sorry, because I’ve come to realize that I really like you Marla. I really do. I care about you and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you because of me. Marla: your life is in danger” (01:58:00).
In this movie, Marla resurrected a man who died internally. Without her, Jack had no reason to live. He wanted to die, and shot himself in the mouth, but when she arrived, he had a reason to live. He could credit everything he accomplished to Marla. He transformed from a spineless, emotionless slave, to a man who lived, and loved. Jack found love, and finally smiled.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Fight Club overlap with their solutions to the struggles of life. With love, people lead meaningful lives. Without love, emptiness exists that eats away at their souls, leaving them hopeless.
McCullers, Carson. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Boston: Mariner Books, 2000.
Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Prod. Art Linson, Cean Chaffin, and Ross Grayson Bell. Perf. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. DVD. Regency, 1999. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2002.