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Summertime Sadness

Popularity 1Viewed 529 times 2019-6-25 21:35 |System category:Others| Books

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 

One can never judge a book by its name. Though it’s self-evident that this book definitely has something to do with loneliness, I didn’t expect it to be like this. Sadness throughout, tinged with a faint touch of despair from time to time. 


It tells the story of a diverse group of people in a southern town in the US in the late 1930s. Centered around a white deaf-mute John Singer, the story unfolds as his only friend Antonapolus got sent to an asylum and the other people started to come to talk to him. 


Mick is a teenage girl from a large family. But she’s never been able to talk with any of them or tell them what’s on her mind, even her dad, with whom the bond seems stronger. 

She has to take care of the younger brothers after school, and only gets time of her own at night when she would roam the streets and alleys and listen to music on the radio of a family in the well-off part of the town, hiding in the bushes in the front yard. 

Music is always there with her, Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. She hums, learns the piano and writes her own songs. She dreams of performing on a stage, receiving the applaud of a huge crowd. 

Mick is always different. She said I’m not when Bubber asked her are we common. She is rough, wild and boy-like. She’s got no close friend. The next-door boy Harry and her had a good moment, riding bicycles all the way to the lake and lying on grass, watching the clouds drifting away. Too bad it was destroyed eventually. 


So Singer moving in the house gives her an outlet to her pent-up emotions. She doesn’t talk much, but Singer, with his demure and poised temperament, must give her the sense that he gets it. This is true with the rest of the group as I see it. 


He listens, or it seems, smiles, and nods sometimes with a certain degree of solemnity, like when Mick asks him whether she should quit school and take the job in the store. 


Doctor Copeland is lonely for obvious reasons. He’s got estranged children and a vision for his people that none of them seem to understand. Mostly self-taught, he believed in the concepts put forward by Karl Marx and Spinoza. As a doctor, he tried to treat people’s mind, which was of no avail. When he finally decided to fight with fists, with demonstration, he got too sick and weak to even take care of himself. 


Blount is always in a state of near madness. He drinks, smokes and rants. He is angry at the appalling injustice but all he came up with was writing chain letters, in the hope of mobilizing people. He moves from one place to another, never make a real living or any real friends. He is rootless. Just when he thought he’s found some consolation from Singer, he lost it forever. Thus his next unknown journey starts. 


Biff is the most confusing for me to read through. He is somewhat faceless. First he seemed stuck in a marriage in which love had long faded. Then his wife died, but not much changed in his life except the decoration in the upstairs bedroom. He just continues to stand in front of cashier, day after day, watching everybody come and go. 


At first I thought they all have the need to talk to Singer because they are people with passion. They don’t just live their lives. They are after something sincere deep down in their heart. But I’m not sure now. I guess everyone has a story to tell if given the chance. 


The truth is, Singer never quite understand these people. He enjoys the accompany of them, however. It takes his mind off Antonapolus. Besides, he’s got nothing else to do. 


But Anto is very indifferent every time Singer comes to visit. Singer talks a lot, sharing all the details of his life. Rarely did Anto respond with the same eagerness or excitement. He barely talks. In their relationship, Anto is the Singer like when Singer is with the others. 


In the end, Singer is just like the rest of them, or perhaps everyone is Singer. 


Loneliness is the normal of life that most of us is unwittingly used to. But humans are also gregarious in nature. We can’t help opening up to someone we think understands. When we get our hopes up, disappointment and sadness is only a matter of time in many cases. Keeping everything to ourselves is the safest option, but not the best, nor the healthiest. We get hurt, but we will always believe. 


Mick has grown since she started working. She’s got no time for music. I feel sorry. I hope she can find a way to pick it up over time. 




(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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