Like Mary Shelley, McCullers is wunderkind
Set in late ‘30s great crisis, when “times is hard for everybody” (40-41), and by damning contrast with [b:Cannery Row|4799|Cannery Row|John Steinbeck|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1309212378s/4799.jpg|824028], novel engages progressive political development by featuring a number of incompletely consistent leftwing perspectives: anti-fascist, socialist, anti-apartheid, feminist, &c. Spectre of World War II haunts the background, and arises in the background chatter and ephemera of the setting, with reference to Munich, Danzig, and so on in the run-up to general belligerence.
Text notes how one “watched the slow agglutination of capital and power and he sees its pinnacle today. He sees America as a crazy house. […] He sees war coming. […] But the main thing he sees is that the whole system of the world is built on a lie” (129).
Attempts to meditate on solitude, “how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house” (45), the eponymous metaphor worked up in overlapping portraits of a number of townies.
Forefronts the perspective of a man afflicted with hearing and speech impairment. The presentation appears sympathetic, though as a reader without disability, I can’t tell if it’s patronizing, silly, &c. For the other principals, dude is some kind of tabula rasa on which they might inscribe their impressions and desires. Presents some of his correspondence, genuinely affective, written to his only friend, absent, someone afflicted with the same disability. That friend is also illiterate makes for logarithmic estrangement.
Another principal is the physician, who “done read more books than any white man in this town,” “full of books and worrying,” “done lost God and turned his back on religion” (42). Opines that it’s “not more children we need but more chances for the ones already on the earth. Eugenic parenthood for the Negro Race was what he would extort them to” (63). Physician has best bit in the whole thing when he gives a speech at the annual Christmas gathering:
“This is the nineteenth year that we have gathered together in this room to celebrate Christmas Day. When our people first heard of the birth of Jesus Christ it was a dark time. Our people were sold as slaves in this town on the courthouse square. Since then we have heard and told the story of His life more times than we could remember. So today our story will be a different one. One hundred and twenty years ago another man was born in a country that is known as Germany--a country far across the Atlantic Ocean. This man understood as did Jesus. But his thoughts were not concerned with Heaven or the future of the dead. His mission was for the living. For the great masses of human beings who work and suffer and work until they die. For people who take in washing and work as cooks, who pick cotton and work at the hot dye vats of the factories. His mission was for us, and the name of this man was Karl Marx” (159-60).
So, yeah, it’s that kind of awesome. The lecture on labor theory and surplus value that follows at length is not diminished by the gentle ribbing author gives the uneducated audience, such as the person who interrupts “Were he Mark in the Bible?” (160).
Also presents a lumpenized leftist, cosmopolitan (“And I’m Dutch and Turkish and Japanese and American” (18)), an agitator (“You ever have any strikes here?” (56) “The bastards who own these mills are millionaires“” (57)). Dude is apparently a non-Stalinist commie (131), and thinks “me and Jesus and Karl Marx could all sit at a table” (134). Much marxist content here, especially in his confrontation with physician over whether to prioritize race question or class question in the planning of a revolution. Some nastiness, though, in his discourse: “The whole system of capitalist democracy is--rotten and corrupt,” which strikes me as a proto-fascist analysis--“There remains only two roads ahead. One: Fascism. Two: reform of the most revolutionary kind” (256). Physician responds: “Do not forget the Negro. So far as I and my people are concerned, the South is Fascist now and always has been” (id.). We see the fascist differential implicit in the race relations of the United States when adolescent white woman gets a job for $10 per week, as contrasted with long-suffering black woman, who is paid $10 per month (271).
Another: tavern owner--“I like freaks” (11)--archives newspapers, “chronologically from October 27, 1918, on up to the present” (113), “everything for the past twenty years docketed and outlined and complete” (id.).
Another: adolescent woman’s story is a mini-bildungsroman. She becomes involved with a young Jewish kid--“is that Mozart a Fascist or a Nazi? […] Because I hate Fascists. If I met one walking on the street I’d kill him” (95). She’d “like to fight the Fascists. I could dress up like a boy and nobody could ever tell” (209). Their relation culminates in:
“They both turned at the same time. They were close against each other. She felt him trembling and her fists were tight enough to crack. ‘Oh, God,’ he kept saying over and over. It was like her head broke off from her body and thrown away. And her eyes looked up straight into the blinding sun while she counted something in her mind. And then this was the way. This was how it was” (235). Bad paronomasia to suggest that this is the Freytag climax?