why dialogue fails miserably

January 23, 2014

Time to deliver on a promise, delayed as it might be. One last quick post on The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Emphasis on quick. The novel is pervaded by an atmosphere of desperation and loneliness, of mutual distrust and antagonism. People roam the streets untitledwithout satisfaction. An abiding theme of the novel is the total lack of belongingness. Because prattle, chit chat, and shooting the bull is how we connect with others, dialogue must fail in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter—and it does so spectacularly. A brute spills his guts to a deaf mute who doesn’t hear a blessed word; a troop of four visits another with comically subdued results, no one able to muster a sustained conversation, a stilted, uncomfortable affair; a boy filled with envy communicates his jealousy by way of accidentally shooting a girl in the face, leaving her with a bloodied, crumpled skull; and two men separated by race but bound by ideology bicker ceaselessly over tactics, till they stare each other down in bitter rage: “You short-sighted bigot!” “White! Fiend!” In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, talking is a dangerous affair, a terrifying parody. A thought, a word, or a sentence might cut or kill you.