Miss. Lonelihearts Essay, Research Paper
Concern with the “absurdity” of the human condition, believing that that the world does not offer a basis for people’s lives and values, has pervaded the thought of many writers. The protagonists in Camus’s The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus illustrate Camus’ absurdist outlook. This philosophy is also evident in Miss Lonelyhearts, the work of Nathanael West. Miss Lonelyhearts addresses the central dilemma facing modern man; nothing in our world can provide people with the answers, values or morals needed to structure men’s lives. West depicts men as isolated beings; lonely hearts who are unable to love one another.
In Camus’ The Stranger, the protagonist Meursault manifests Camus’s outlook. Life for Meursault has little meaning on a profound level, and he is not concerned with making value judgments or assessing right from wrong. Camus explains that most people accept the common events that compose their existence, without questioning their actions. He feels that nothing we do have deep, lasting effects; our lives end while the universe goes on, without being fundamentally changed. Natural forces are evident in our lives, yet by simply relishing the fleeting moments of nature, one will never find steadfast enjoyment. In The Stranger, Meursault is incapable of looking beyond the sensations of the moment.
In another of Camus’ works, The Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus is portrayed as an absurd hero who his conscious of his plight. Sispyphus has been condemned for his scorn of the gods, hatred of death and passion for life. He has been relegated to the rolling of a rock to the top of a mountain forever, and he does not appeal to hope or to plead with any gods. Sisyphus’ rolling of the rock up the mountain establishes a confrontation between the passionate, longing human and the indifferent universe. Camus demonstrates his concern, as in his other works, with people and their world, the relationships between them, and the relationships between people and their past.
Camus’s outlook on the relationships between people, and the relationships between people and their world are evident in West’s Miss Lonelyhearts. Miss Lonelyhearts has been hired as a newspaper reporter who responds to hopeless letters from the dejected, “Desperate, Sick-of-It-All, Disillusioned.” What begins as a prank to dispense vicious advice to his writers, starts to in fact, disillusion Miss Lonelyhearts. The letter writers’ pain and need for answers torment Miss Lonelyhearts. He recognizes that most of the letters are “profoundly humble pleas for moral and spiritual advice, that they are inarticulate expressions of genuine suffering.” (32) Miss Lonelyhearts is compelled to truly examine the values by which he lives. At first, he longs to share his religious solutions to their problems. However, he later recognizes that even if his editor allowed him to aid his writers, he was incapable of doing so. He who once felt confident in his beliefs was now unable to provide even the helpless with any answers.
West addresses Miss Lonelyhearts’ perplexity; having abandoned God, where can people find solutions? Camus insists that nothing is capable of supplying these answers. Our world lacks morals and values – nothing to provide frameworks or boundaries for people’s lives. Life has no absolute meaning. In spite of human’s longing for unity, absolutes and a definite order, no such meaning exists in our indifferent universe. Because of Miss. Lonelyhearts’ predicament, the inexplicable meaning of life is addressed; he is unable to find meaning or the means to solve peoples’ problems. Thus, Miss Lonelyhearts’ own life and the lives of those around him appear hopeless and irreparable.
Miss Lonelyhearts also deals with alienation. Throughout the novel, West emphasizes the disconnection of sexes, and of all human beings in general. The nature of humans to find satisfaction and relief through sexual contact and relationships is expressed The rowdy men at Delehante’s bar often make references to their need for sexual encounters with women. Miss Lonelyhearts’ character also refers to the satisfaction which women can provide him, “What he really needed was a woman. He laughed again, remembering that at college all of his friends had believed intercourse capable of steadying the nerves, relaxing the muscles and clearing the blood.” (19) Miss Lonelyhearts’ isolation from others is stressed, not only in his name, but by West’s vivid description. For example, “He lived by himself in a room that was as full of shadows as an old steel engraving.” (8) The contrast between the “Desperate, Sick-of-It-All, Disillusioned,” writers and Miss Lonelyhearts becomes less pronounced as the novel develops.
The pessimistic and absurdist attitude expressed by Nathanael West in Miss Lonelyhearts is similar to that of Camus, and Camus’s outlook indicated by his works: The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger. West and Camus illustrate that nothing in our world can provide people with the answers, values or morals which they believe are needed in their lives. West depicts men as isolated beings; men who are unable to assist or love one another.