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Carson McCullers: Reflections in a Golden Eye

McCullers’ second novel was a drop in standard from her first but still a memorable novel. As usual, there are several things going on in this novel. In the first place, there is a love triangle. Captain Penderton, who clearly has homosexual feelings, knows that his wife is cheating on him with his next door neighbour, Major Langdon. Major Langdon’s wife is sickly and has never recovered from her son’s death. Her only friend – devoted slave even – is her homosexual Filipino servant, Anacleto. These five interact throughout the novel but the main character is the strange Private Williams, who works in the stables. Penderton, who is weak but takes it out in bullying, picks on Williams for no real reason. But Williams is one of those loner McCullers characters and he spends most of his time spying on Penderton and his wife, even spending hours in Mrs. Penderton’s bedroom (the couple sleeps in separate rooms), when he is not running nude through the woods or performing minor acts of sabotage. Of course, as in good McCullers style, everything comes to a violent and rather nasty conclusion but, once again, she draws out some excellent character portrayals of ordinary people trapped in their slightly unordinary ways.

Publishing history

First published 1940 in Harper’s Bazaar
First published in book form in 1941 by Houghton Mifflin