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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Two deaf mutes live in a town in the deep South. One is a fat Greek man named Spiros Antonapoulos and the other is a thin man named John Singer. Spiros works for his cousin at a fruit store. Singer walks Spiros to work every day, looks into his face before he leaves him, and then goes to his own job at a jewelry store where he is a silverware engraver. In the afternoon, they meet again. Spiros loves to eat. He always reaches into the glass case and grabs something to eat before leaving the store. His cousin seems barely to tolerate him.
Singer talks to Spiros with his hands all evening. He arranges all their meals and their orderly existence. Spiros seldom speaks with his hands. His only interests in life are eating, sleeping, and drinking. He becomes sick and the doctor orders a bland diet. Singer tries to make Spiros stick to this diet, but his friend becomes angry and petulant. Suddenly, a change comes over Spiros. He begins to be rude to people on the street, bumping into them, and knocking them aside. He urinates against a public building. Singer arranges to pay the fines he incurs and lives a life of distress until Spirosís cousin, Charles Parker, puts him in an insane asylum. He will not listen to Singerís pleas.
When Singer has to live alone, he has no one to talk to, he canít sleep, and he changes his habits entirely. He begins to wander at night with his hands thrust into his pockets. He begins to take his meals at a restaurant and he moves to a poor rooming house. He thinks of his friend all the time. He remembers his childhood in Chicago. Left an orphan as a boy, he was placed in a school for deaf children where he learned how to sign and read lips and even speak, but he was never comfortable with speaking and when he moved to the South, he never spoke any more.
McCullers opens the book with a vignette describing the love of John Singer for Spiros Antonapoulos. It is unclear why Singer so loves his friend. They are opposites in almost every way. While Singer is neat and orderly, Spiros is hedonistic, fat, and anarchic. One of the core ideas of the book is present here--that is, love is not a rational choice. The object of love is understood only by the lover. More important to the theme of the book is the silence of the beloved. Spiros says nothing. He only listens. He does not reciprocate any of John Singerís attentions. He only receives. It is in his lack of interest that Singer centers his obsessive love. Instead of being someone who responds or even has his own things to say, Spiros is purely receptive. Singer can project all the understanding and love he needs onto his friend. He can believe that his friend understands him better than any other.