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Miss Lonelyhearts

a story by Nathanael West, published in 1933, described as a ‘modernized, faithless Pilgrim's Progress’. The nameless protagonist, a middle-aged son of a Baptist minister, is a reporter who writes an agony column for a New York newspaper under the name ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’. Disillusioned, anxiety-ridden, and alienated in a world of irrational violence and capitalist indifference, and suffering from what he calls his ‘Christ complex’, he variously turns to sexual love, other human relationships, and popular culture. As these all gradually appear to be arid, empty, and unsatisfactory, Miss Lonelyhearts heads for a spiritual crisis. Negotiating the cynicism of his bullying editor Shrike, the lack of understanding by his unsympathetic girlfriend Betty, and his desperate lust for the deprived Mrs Fay Doyle, coupled with his sympathy for Fay's crippled husband, Peter, he becomes suicidal. Peter, feeling ambivalent towards Miss Lonelyhearts, plans to shoot him with a gun concealed in a package. In an ending of black comedy and irony, Miss Lonelyhearts is shot accidentally. In a blend of allegory, pastiche, stereotype, and a surrealist juxtaposition of striking imagery, West offers a stark critique of modern existence.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: McTeague to Nancy [Freeman] Mitford Biography