Mick Kelly’s first glimpse of a naked male, her first sexual encounter, and her first liver pudding sandwich is at a picnic with Harry Minowitz. Mick is the hero of Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, she’s sixteen and mildly depressed like many teenagers.
McCullers is very discreet about the sex. The narrative breaks off as Mick and Harry stand in naked while swimming in the river. On the way home, they stop to talk. Mick is sanguine, Harry cries. “It was my fault,” he says. He suggests that they might get married secretly, but Mick says definitively, “I don’t like that. I will never marry with any boy.” Back home, Harry walks away without looking back.
Mick wonders if he will bring something strange to eat because Harry is a “Jew-boy.” He does: “cold liver pudding and chicken salad sandwiches and pie,” hard-boiled eggs (with separate packages of salt and pepper). Harry’s thoughtful mother also remembers paper napkins. “That’s a good picnic dinner,” Mick says. She has blackberry jelly and butter sandwiches. They stop to buy drinks; first choice is chocolate Nehi, but when Mick takes a beer instead, Harry follows. “He thought it was a sin for anybody under twenty to drink beer—but he just suddenly wanted to be a sport.”
Robert Ellis Miller’s film version keeps the sex but drops the food. His version of the picnic begins with smiles but there is no joy or sense of sexual arousal. Mick and Harry are participants not lovers. When it is over, Harry says he’s sorry, but Mick thinks that she got what she wanted. [See Picnics on Film.com]
Featured Image: Mick Kelly (Sondra Locke) and Harry Minowitz (Wayne Smith) smile in Robert Ellis Miller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968).
See: Carson McCullers. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940; Robert Ellis Miller. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968). Screenplay by Thomas c. Ryan based on Carson McCullers’s novel (1940).
* In the Jewish kitchen, it is known as chopped liver; in the American South, livermush (sometimes liver mush or liver pudding) is colloquially known as “poor man’s” or “poor boy’s pâté.”