Miss Lonelyhearts

by: Nathanael West

"Miss Lonelyhearts on a Field Trip"

Summary "Miss Lonelyhearts on a Field Trip"

Miss Lonelyhearts's comment about Americans and their penchant for breaking stones recalls the previous symbolic associations with stones, such as Shrike's "daily stone" that resides in Miss Lonelyhearts's gut, or as the weapon used to kill the sacrificial lamb. Whatever the stone represents—possibly an admission of sin as the stone that Miss Lonelyhearts cannot cast, perhaps a bloody instrument of mercy in the sacrifice—it is undoubtedly a permanent, cold, strong force of nature that man has tried to defeat and shape to his own violent purpose. In the novel's chronological progression, the stones do seem to inflict more cruel damage. In the episode of the lamb, Miss Lonelyhearts amends the botched sacrifice by knife with the stone—a harsh death, to be sure, but one borne from mercy. With the "daily stone," Shrike wants Miss Lonelyhearts to shape the stone into false hope for the readers—a seemingly harmless action, but the product of a cynical, faithless age. Finally, skyscrapers seem like a march toward progress, but are actually towering testaments to man's desire, quite literally, to scrape the sky and violently attack nature itself.