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Novel-Carson McCullers-1940.

Film-directed by Robert Ellis Miller-1968 (starred Alan Arkin& Sondra Locke).

The book and the film version that followed are similar. It is a powerful, simple novel, McCuller's first. According to Amazon.com, she was only 24 when she wrote it. It is a story about making connections with those who can't hear you and losing touch with people who lose their minds. It is about communication on many levels and the estrangement that people feel at different points in their lives. McCullers would not have used the word existential to describe this story of small town America, but it fits. Mostly, she captures the circles of approach/avoidance that people go through in their search for identity and empathy. It is probably not a coincidence that one of the main characters is a mentally ill Greek man(since it plays out so much like Greek tragedy).

The narrative is told from the point of view of teenage girl in small town Georgia. A deaf man, John, moves into the girl's home to rent a room. He has only one close friend in the world, a mentally ill man who is in and out of a state institution. The deaf man plays records on a phonograph, because it brings people to visit him, including the narrator. He likes watching their faces as they listen to the music. As the story proceeds, other people come and share their problems with the man, although he can neither give them absolution or hear their stories. They come anyway, and go away pleased and thankful. No one hears what John needs.

This is a book many American high school students are required to read. That's a pity. Because if it is forced reading, it is probably dismissed out of hand. It is an excellent book about America, the mentally ill and communication.