Miss Lonelyhearts

Symbolism in Nathanael West's 'Miss Lonelyhearts'

With its alternately overt and subtle use of symbolism, Nathanael West's 'Miss Lonelyhearts' works on three separate yet interrelated symbolic levels: a simple symbolic level, in which objects, people, and events in a particular scene are representative of one small symptom of the overall weariness experienced by Miss Lonelyhearts; a more detailed symbolic level, in which objects, people, and events in a number of scenes unite to represent the larger and wider constitutive elements of Miss Lonelyhearts' disillusionment; and a complex symbolic level, in which all of the above elements come together in order to represent Miss Lonelyhearts himself, and the essence of his attraction to suffering.

Miss Lonelyhearts' frustration and torment first truly come to the fore in 'Miss Lonelyhearts and the Fat Thumb.' "When he touched something it spilled or rolled to the floor." Miss Lonelyhearts can't do anything right, not even simple things like picking up an object without dropping it. But more importantly, he can't make anything right in the larger portrait of his overall life: his minor foibles in 'Miss Lonelyhearts and the Fat Thumb' are each, in their own way, symbolic of...

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