The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Chasing the Unattainable: Manifestations of Desire in Selected Novels by Carson McCullers


  • Hans Ingvar Marmén

Summary, in English

The American author Carson McCullers’s often non-normative fictional characters typically desire something they cannot have and thus a pattern of nonreciprocal love and desire permeate much of her work. Earlier scholarship on her fiction has focused on themes of isolation as well as the element of symbolism but also psychological approaches including Freudian and Jungian perspectives have been taken. This essay analyses desire in three selected novels by McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), The Ballad of the Sad Café (1943), drawing on Jacques Lacan’s theory of desire, which claims that the object of one’s desire is ultimately unattainable. By showing that the object of desire remains largely out of reach for the characters in the selected novels, I argue that Lacan’s thesis is generally applicable to them. Admitting that periods or moments of happiness or bliss are afforded some of the characters, I conclude that their typical state remains one of strong but unfulfilled desire.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Carson McCullers
  • Desire
  • Lacan


  • Cian Duffy (Professor)