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Miss Lonelyhearts

Nathanael West

"Miss Lonelyhearts Returns," "M.L. and the Cripple," and "M.L. Pays a Visit"

"Miss Lonelyhearts in the Dismal Swamp" and "M.L. in the Country"

"Miss Lonelyhearts Returns," "M.L. and the Cripple," and "M.L. Pays a Visit", page 2

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"Miss Lonelyhearts Returns"

Miss Lonelyhearts and Betty return to the city a few days later. He knows he is not cured, as he has not been able to forget the letters. He watches the crowds in the streets, musing that men use dreams to defeat their misery but that dreams have been made "puerile" by the media. He realizes that he, too, dreams—about Christ—but fails at it because of lack of humility. He vows to be humble. At work, he decides to write his column without reading his letters. He starts writing about how Christ died and suffered for humanity, but then stops, feeling his writing is too vain.

Miss Lonelyhearts opens a bulky letter and reads. The writer—naming herself "Broad Shoulders"—tells a rambling story about how she and her husband sank into debt. Her husband abandoned them and was arrested for refusing to support her and their two children. She gave him another chance, but he beat her, threatened her life, slowly grew insane, and pawned off all their valuables. After she gave him an arrest warrant for non-support, he left again. For income she was forced to bring back a boarder she had been putting up before, but the man now tries to have sex with her. She asks Miss Lonelyhearts for any advice, then explains "dont think I am broad shouldered but that is the way I feel about life and me I mean."

"Miss Lonelyhearts and the Cripple"

Miss Lonelyhearts avoids Betty, as she makes him feel "ridiculous" and he is trying to practice humility. Goldsmith invites him to a drink and is so surprised by Miss Lonelyhearts's humility he believes him to be sick. At the speakeasy, Shrike mockingly inquires about Miss Lonelyhearts's faith, then mock-accuses Goldsmith of being a nasty skeptic. The bartender tells Miss Lonelyhearts that a man at the bar named Peter Doyle wants to see him. Doyle, whose foot is crippled, comes over and buys them a round of drinks. When Doyle tells Shrike about his job as meter-inspector, Shrike gets offended and leaves with Goldsmith.

Doyle tells Miss Lonelyhearts that Mrs. Doyle said he should invite Miss Lonelyhearts to dinner if he ran into him. Miss Lonelyhearts accepts, and later invites Doyle into the back room. Miss Lonelyhearts studies Doyle's face, which looks like a composite of different faces. Doyle inarticulately speaks for a while before handing Miss Lonelyhearts a letter he has written him. In the letter, Doyle tells Miss Lonelyhearts about his disability and job and repeatedly asks what the point of it all is. After Miss Lonelyhearts finishes reading, he accidentally touches Doyle's hand under the table, instinctively retracts his own hand, then clasps Doyle's hand firmly. Doyle is at first embarrassed, but soon they relax and silently continue to grasp hands.

"Miss Lonelyhearts Pays a Visit"

Miss Lonelyhearts and Doyle leave the speakeasy, drunk, with Doyle thinking about his plight and Miss Lonelyhearts about his newfound humility. Doyle curses his wife and foot with the name of Christ. Miss Lonelyhearts helps him into his house, where Doyle sees his wife and begins cursing. Mrs. Doyle takes her husband in and playfully gooses Miss Lonelyhearts. They have dinner, during which Mrs. Doyle flirts more with Miss Lonelyhearts, who tries to remember how he felt while holding hands with Doyle and attempts to think of a message he can communicate to the couple.

The after-dinner drinks make Mrs. Doyle more open with her advances, which bothers her nervous and self-conscious husband. When he awkwardly protests, she hits him with a newspaper. He plays the role of a dog, growling, getting on the floor, and finally tearing open Miss Lonelyhearts's fly. When the couple fights, Miss Lonelyhearts tries to remind them of their love. Mrs. Doyle angrily leaves for the kitchen, and the two men hold hands again. When she returns, Mrs. Doyle mocks the two as "fairies."

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