Miss Lonelyhearts

by: Nathanael West

"Miss Lonelyhearts and the Lamb" and "M.L. and the Fat Thumb"

Summary "Miss Lonelyhearts and the Lamb" and "M.L. and the Fat Thumb"

Miss Lonelyhearts also spells out his tragic flaw to Betty—his Christ complex. Interestingly, to him Betty is a representative of Buddha. Buddhism espouses the view that life is suffering and that detachment and the release of desire must be practiced—which may explain why Miss Lonelyhearts finds Betty's world ordered. However, this philosophy conflicts somewhat with Miss Lonelyhearts's Christian mission of love and communion with his fellow man. (It is not that Buddhism does not preach peace, but it focuses more on internal rather than relational peace.) Miss Lonelyhearts's problem is that he is neither fully detached nor fully attached: he cannot separate himself from his readers, yet he lacks the full, heartfelt empathy required to make a difference in their lives. He wants to love, but Shrike's cynicism and his readers' despair have rubbed off on him, rendering him a spiteful man. When Miss Lonelyhearts is confronted with love in the personal and not abstract sense, he becomes selfish, inconsiderate and, above all, a disbeliever in love, suspecting Betty of artificiality and of having "fooled" him into thinking love was a "solution." His claim to not feeling guilty is dubious, however, for he is self-conscious around Betty, most of all in his speech. Indeed, he turns into a virtual grotesque himself, his tongue transforming into a "fat thumb."