‘Sucker’ by Carson McCullers

Sucker by Carson McCullers, 1934

The magic trick:

Showing remarkable restraint from directly addressing the story’s subject matter

Gonna list this as 1934, when McCullers claims to have written the story. It wasn’t published until 1963. I find it hard to believe that she wrote a story this strong at 17 years old, but, hey, why not? There’s no denying her talent.

The thing is it’s not just a strong story; it’s a restrained story. There is such a flood of adolescent emotions going on here. Some heterosexual; some homosexual; all of it confused with the rush of youth that makes everything feel extreme and desperate.

And yet it’s restrained. The story never allows its narrator any clarity. He never out and out addresses the true themes at work here. But then again if the theme is the lack of clarity, then the confusion itself speaks volumes. And that’s quite a trick on McCullers’s part.

The selection:

Sucker used to always remember and believe every word I said. That’s how he got his nick-name. Once a couple of years ago I told him that if he’d jump off our garage with an umbrella it would act as a parachute and he wouldn’t fall hard. He did it and busted his knee. That’s just one instance. And the funny thing was that no matter how many times he got fooled he would still believe me. Not that he was dumb in other ways-it was just the way he acted with me, He would look at everything I did and quietly take it in.

There is one thing I have learned, but it makes me feel guilty and is hard to figure out. If a person admires you a lot you despise him and don’t care-and it is the person who doesn’t notice you that you are apt to admire. This is not easy to realize. Maybelle Watts, this senior at school, acted like she was the Queen of Sheba and even humiliated me. Yet at this same time I would have done anything in the world to get her attentions. All I could think about day and night was Maybelle until I was nearly crazy. When Sucker was a little kid and on up until the time he was twelve I guess I treated him as bad as Maybelle did me.


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