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Miss Lonelyhearts answers to woeful letters of the Desperate, sick of it all, Broad Shoulders, in the New York Post and tries to create some sort of hope for life, in the hearts of his readers, who are much disillusioned by the world around them. He believes in Christ, but according to his editor Shrike, asking his readers too, to believe in God is like giving them false hopes. That is why, in his reply to the sad souls Miss Lonelyhearts suggests escape routes like art, in order to help people overlook the harsh realities of life. His own life too is much affected by the sorrowful letters that he reads all day.
Miss Lonelyhearts dreads to be in the company of Shrike and his friends, because Shrike constantly picks on him and ridicules him in the speakeasy. He is much relieved in the bar when Shrike is not around. Though, after reading books like The Brothers Karamazov, Miss Lonelyhearts is convinced that his entire world needs is love, he does not write about it as he is aware of what Shrike’s reaction is going to be.
Finding no solace in art, Miss Lonelyhearts plans to find peace for his restless mind and soul by paying a visit to Betty, who he had proposed marriage to a few months back but had never met since. Disgusted with Miss Lonelyhearts for never inquiring after her and suddenly appearing in front of her one day, Betty requests him to leave her alone. Miss Lonelyhearts resorts to hot water, then drinking coffee and finally whisky but it refuses to work. At last he thinks of sex and approaches Shrike’s wife for his gratification. Shrike’s wife is dissatisfied with her relationship with her husband, but she refuses to give in to either of the men. She is not ready to sacrifice her virginity at the altar of lust.
On his return, Miss Lonelyhearts is introduced to a cripple by the name of Peter Doyle, who questions his very existence as his handicap, poverty and complaining wife, drains out his very interest in life. Miss Lonelyhearts feels genuine empathy for him and also accepts his invitation to have supper at his home. At Doyle’s home, his wife makes obscene gesture to Miss Lonelyhearts who ignores her completely. She sends her husband to bring some gin and in the meantime tries to seduce Miss Lonelyhearts. But it is all in vain because Miss Lonelyhearts runs out of the house.
Mentally tortured by the world around him, Miss Lonelyhearts closes himself in his home and becomes totally unattached from the outside world. On the third day, Shrike with his other drunk friends take him to a party where he meets Betty, whom he had tried to dodge many times. Betty leaves the party angrily and is followed by an apologetic Miss Lonelyhearts. Though he feels nothing, as he has become numb at heart, a "rock" as he calls himself, he tries to appease Betty. He says everything that she wants to hear, like he would marry her as she was pregnant with his child and that he had left his job and was looking for a new one.
By the next afternoon, he develops high fever and undergoes an intense religious experience, which gives him the ability to perform a miracle. This experience rejuvenates his spirits as well as his soul. He sees Doyle running towards him. Actually Doyle suspects him of raping his wife, the day he had taken Miss Lonelyhearts home for supper and so he is running towards him to kill him. Miss Lonelyhearts, out of compassion, without suspecting his motives, rushes to embrace him and make him whole with his ability to perform a miracle. Doyle however, springs at him and after some struggle, shoots him with a gun, all this while Betty watches the scene in horror.