Miss Lonelyhearts

The World as Seen by Nathaniel West

The traditional human condition plagues every individual; each suffers, and consequently, thirsts for personal freedom and utter fulfillment in whatever way possible. While Western culture recognizes this tendency as rooted in religiousness or spirituality, most Eastern philosophy understands this human characteristic as ultimate, drawing no line of separation between the "religious" individual and the truth-seeker. By whatever name, all humans walk this same path in pursuit of meaning and enlightenment amidst moral and philosophical chaos. With Miss Lonelyhearts, Nathanael West gives the most pessimistic account of this struggle a reader can imagine, exploring the dark fate of an advice columnist naively hopeful despite an unpromising world. Although West's scrutinizing depiction of futile human virtues might cause Mahatma Gandhi to turn over in his grave, the novel's real intellectual probing lies in the problematic steps the characters take to alleviate real, human alienation.

All the characters in West's novel take certain steps to cover moral isolation and confusion. Even Shrike, the most loudly vocal in his essential rejection of mankind, uses wry sarcasm and savage mockery to feign a higher status...

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