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Miss Lonelyhearts, contrary to the name, is a young man, who answers sorrowful letters of people in order to give them raison d’etre. Initially, he considers it to be an interesting game, to peep into the lives of people and to advise them but soon, his job makes him a depressed man. The worries and tensions of his people get to him and make him restless.
He looks for ways to pacify his heart. He turns to art, sex, alcohol and religion, but nothing gives him satisfaction. In the end, his faith in Christ bears fruit and he has a profound religious experience, which replenishes his soul and spirit. But before he can heal his people with his new enlightenment, the lack of faith of his people brings about his doom.
Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West focuses on the modern depraved lifestyle of the cities or the world at large. In the world depicted in this novel, there is no villain as such. Though there are dark figures like the cynical, selfish Shrike and the murderer, Peter Doyle, they are just products of a society gone astray. They live in a faithless environment where man uses escape routes to avoid reality, where love has been replaced by lust and where Christ’s name is nothing but a false hope for people.
This lack of faith in oneself as well as in God is the antagonist, to which most of the characters fall prey.
The climax comes at the end of the novel, in the last part -Miss Lonelyhearts has a Religious experience. Miss Lonelyhearts is extremely disturbed with the letters he has to answer day after day. He suggests numerous ways to his readers, to escape the gloomy reality, but does not succeed. He is determined to do something for the sad souls around him.
His faith in God entitles him to a religious experience that revives his spirit. It also enables him to perform a miracle and make the spiritually and physically handicapped, whole - by embracing him. This experience is the turning point of the novel; this is where hopes are revived.
With the religious experience, the hopes of Miss Lonelyhearts as well as the readers rise, only to be shattered more dramatically. The novel ends on a tragic note with the murder of Miss Lonelyhearts.
This conveys that, a crusader sent by God will be met with the same non-belief and cynicism as the very name of God, in a society where people live only by false hopes. While Miss Lonelyhearts rushes towards Doyle to embrace him and make him whole, Doyle is coming towards him with vengeance and hatred, to kill him. Miss Lonelyhearts falls prey to Doyle’s misjudgment and Doyle thoughtlessly kills the very man who has the power to wipe away all his sorrows.