Miss Lonelyhearts

Main Ideas

Themes

Main Ideas Themes

Miss Lonelyhearts also frequently addresses the dreams of those around him, and is usually depressed by them, as he is in the overly romantic Spanish restaurant. However, he also says he learned that "all these things were part of the business of dreams. He had learned not to laugh at the advertisements offering to teach writing, cartooning, engineering, to add inches to the biceps and to develop the bust." It certainly is a "business" of dreams, aspirations designed to sell and make the populace buy. As did many post-WWI writers, West criticized the foundations of the American Dream, the optimistic belief that anyone in America could advance in the social and economy hierarchy. What defines a "grotesque" for Miss Lonelyhearts or West—typically an emotional cripple whose physical appearance frequently symbolizes his interior state, such as Doyle or the nose-less girl—is a persistent belief in the American Dream, even in the face of endless hardship. But many of his readers have also given up hope that life can ever be painless—Doyle and "Broad Shoulders" among them—and their persistence makes them courageous figures. Miss Lonelyhearts criticizes his own dreams about Christ repeatedly throughout the novel, but it is clear by the end that the only way out of the nightmarish American Dream is through love. Doyle's unwillingness to accept Miss Lonelyhearts's final embrace, however, shows that singular action is not enough; we must all commit ourselves to universal love if personal love is to have an effect.