Published in 1940, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is considered McCullers' finest work. The focus of the work is on John Singer, a deaf-mute in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s, and on his effect on the people who confide in him. When Singer's mute Greek companion of 10 years goes insane, Singer is left alone and isolated. He takes a room with the Kelly family, where he is visited by the town's misfits, who turn to him for understanding but have no knowledge of his inner life. The book's emphasis on individuals who are considered outcasts because of race, politics, disability, or sensibility placed it squarely within the Southern gothic tradition of American literature.
Sensitively conceived and expertly told . . . Its quality as writing and the intensity of its theme combine to make it one of the outstanding novels of recent years.