Commentary on The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Social Media Adaptation

Carson McCullers is often thought of ‘as somehow frozen into youth’[1] having done most of her work before she was thirty and dying when was fifty. As Kasia Boddy says, ‘[McCullers] did not simply write about female adolescents but wrote with the sensibility of one; forever thirteen…’[2] With this in mind, I thought an adaptation of her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, would be perfect for social media. Considering the themes of social isolation of the novel, I thought it also tapped in the modern debate of how much social media is affecting social interaction; and whether despite connecting us on a global level, are social media platforms actually socially isolating us more?[3] Having known of the success of last year’s social media adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I was keen to replicate their success.

My adaptation is meant to streamline the entire novel, and give a fuller sense of the five main characters in the novel (John Singer, Mick Kelly, Doctor Benedict Copeland, Jake Blount and Biff Brannon.) I lifted much of content from dialogue and occasionally from the prose itself. Aside from the five mentioned, both Portia, Bubber Kelly and Alice Brannon were also given accounts because they tied very heavily into the plot. I also made a “spotted” account on twitter, which hopefully will help lay out ‘scenes’ while the adaptation is live.

Part of the interest in adapting the novel was figuring out to present deaf-mute Singer, whom in the novel, becomes to the others ‘a blank slate’ – he is essentially voiceless, never truly replying to the other characters, and because of this, he becomes a ‘Christ-like figure,’[4] where other characters imbue him with qualities they wish him to have. In deciding to make no media accounts for Singer – aside from a private blog – I hope that Singer’s character becomes even more ethereal and ghost-like: his online invisibility translating that Christ-like image. His blog, on the other hand, expands his character and how he views the events of the novel.

For the other characters, Twitter became an integral platform. The novel is very dialogue heavy, meaning Twitter was the perfect platform – it also helped with my overall ‘streamlining’ aim, as the 140-character limit meant I either had to cut down or cut out chunks of dialogue. I also made additional platforms for certain characters; for the younger character Mick, I made Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram accounts (Bubber also has a Tumblr and Portia, an instagram) Mick, at fourteen, would be more tech and social media savvy, as well as thoughtful about the world around her, so the excess of social media accounts allow her character to be fully developed and shown. This has the added bonus of the adaptation appealing to a young audience, while really fleshing out Mick’s character and story arc with a variety of media.

Biff also has a Pinterest account; after his wife’s death, Biff explores gender identity. So while he is seen as hyper-masculine – having to shave twice daily – he starts using his wife’s perfume and believes that ‘by nature all people are of both sexes.’[5] His exploration of femininity can be enhanced and better reflected online with Pinterest – where most users on the platform are statistically female (80%).[6] Biff’s pleasure of collecting newspapers has become a collection of ‘pins.’

I took some inspiration from the YouTube adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries[7]updating the 1940s setting of the novel to our modern time. This had minor changes to the plot and to what the character’s referenced when they talked (i.e. In the novel, Mick talks about beating the fascists and Mussolini; I changed this into the Mick wanting to stop the spread of Isis). The plot stayed relatively intact, with a lot of the issues that the novel deals with, still being prevalent issues to this day – albeit less extreme in cases. For example, Doctor Copeland still deals with the inherent racism of the south, just in a modern context, rather than nationwide segregation that was still present at the time of the novel’s publication.

The only thing I didn’t update was Mick’s love of classical music. While I could have made it a love of the current generation boy-bands, I though her love of this genre of music was integral to her character. I also thought that it made her feel more isolated from girls her own age, something that was important in the novel.

Like the Bennet Diaries, where several characters have vlogs, my adaptation can be followed in many different ways. Someone can follow it chronologically as in the novel, or they can pick a character or platform and scroll through the chosen timeline. Considering that The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is essentially made up of five stories that are separated into intersecting chunks, I thought it offered a unique way to ‘read’ the novel.

Using multiple platforms, I hope my adaptation conveys both the story and the overall sense of the novel, while also enhancing aspects of the novel. The use of different platforms and mediums – using images and music as well as words – creates an adaptation that uniquely engages an audience and offers a different yet still entertaining experience to the novel. I hope that it both attracts a new audience to McCuller’s novel, while also supplementing and adding to the experience of those who have read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

 

Word Count: 907.

The website: https://heartsoflonelyhunters.wordpress.com

[1] McCullers, Carson The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Penguin Modern Classics, 2008, pxi.

[2] ibid

[3] James, Robert ‘Does Social Media Create Social Isolation or Unity?’ Grahamjones.co.uk [online] Available from: http://www.grahamjones.co.uk/2012/articles/social-media-articles/does-social-media-create-social-isolation-or-unity.html [Site accessed on 10 April 2015]

[4] Ibid pxiii

[5] McCullers, Carson The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Penguin Modern Classics, 2008, p119.

[6] Bennet, Shea ‘Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat – Social Media Stats 2014 [INFOGRAPHIC]’ Adweek.com: SocialTimes 9 June 2014 [Online] Available from: http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/social-media-statistics-2014/499230

[7] The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, pemberleydigital.com [Online] Available from: http://www.pemberleydigital.com/the-lizzie-bennet-diaries/

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