Miss Lonelyhearts Essay
Miss. Lonelyhearts as the Archetypal Anti-hero
In National West’s 1933 novel, Miss Lonelyhearts a character is introduced as an advice
columnist for a New York newspaper. Lonelyhearts feels depressed by the atmosphere at work
with the letters he receives and the inability to do much about them expect by offering concepts
of Christianity. While he gives little helpful advice, Lonelyhearts fails to implement his beliefs to
his own life and to himself.
There are continuous moments when Lonelyhearts either views himself as Christ or is
depicted as the image of Christ. However, he fails to hold any qualities that secure his position as
a hero or even as Christ. Miss Lonelyhearts admits “I've got a Christ complex. Humanity...I'm a
humanity lover,” (12) to Betty. Lonelyhearts hangs a figure of Christ up on his walls, reinforcing
his faith in Christianity but this could also be interpreted as hanging up self-portraits- especially
when he sees himself as Christ and when those writing to him see him as someone who can help.
They see him as a counselor, asking him for advice- similar to how people gather in front of a
podium of Christ, praying for help or advice. His self-image of Christ is strengthened with his
similar look to a minister and Shrikes constant comments that compare Lonelyhearts to Christ.
However, while Miss. Lonelyhearts saw himself as Christ, he admits that he doesn’t let
the religion take over him. West wrote Miss Lonelyhearts as a man who are shares some qualities
of Christ. While Jesus Christ is a figure who spoke about love and dealt with the pain and
misery, Miss. Lonelyhearts only perceives misery. He never forms that personal connection with
his readers, only becoming enraged when he can’t do nothing to help them. With Betty, his
connection to her breaks off before it could really begin, there is constant verbal abuse from
Unfortunately, he does not live up to the Christian potential. Miss. Lonelyhearts, himself,
admits at one point that he doesn’t believe in Christ; in doing so, it would further prevent him
from fully being portrayed as Christ. His faith is lowered even if it was a passing thought.
As heros in a story, they value morality above all else, Lonelyhearts fails to be portrayed
to care about right or wrong- good behavior and bad behavior. He does offer empathy to the
writers, proving with him anger towards not being able to do anything, of the letters but he fails
to act on any good behavior himself. This especially shows when Lonelyhearts buys a lamb and
tries to sacrifice the lamb to Christ is unsuccessful with the knives, he then continues with a rock
but leaves the carcass behind. The lamb better depicts the comparison with Christ than with
Lonelyhearts. The lamb was sacrificed with a stone in the name of Christ but was then later
abandoned. West’s implications show the inability for Miss Lonelyhearts to live up to his
potential in Christianity.
Towards the end of the novel, West puts Miss Lonelyhearts through the last three days
filled with events similar to Christ towards the end of his life; the last supper, death, and
resurrection. West, however, doesn’t write them in that order. Miss Lonelyhearts spends three
days in bed and towards the end of it, Miss Lonelyhearts finally experiences that religious
connection and knows how he can improve to make a better life for himself, “He immediately
began to plan a new life and his future conduct as Miss Lonelyhearts,” (55). When he sees
Doyle, he tries to hug the man with love, “He would embrace the cripple and the cripple would
be made whole again, even as he, a spiritual cripple, had been made whole,” (56). For the first
time, he attempts to forge that emotional connection with people as Christ would do. However,
this newfound religious connection is taken away just as fast. Miss Lonelyhearts dies in the lack
of faith from Doyle the same was Christ was killed for the sins of man.
West gave Miss Lonelyhearts the potential to become Christ but Lonelyhearts wouldn’t
have been accepted regardless, whether it was himself or society. The countless images of Miss
Lonelyhearts and the comparisons of Christ has been flawed since the beginning, leading to the
assumption that while Miss Lonelyhearts could have been an image of Christ, it was failed to do
so because of his lack of ability to make that early connection within himself.
1. Delahoyde, Michael. “Archetypal Criticism.” Introduction to Literature , Washington
State University , 6 Jan. 2011, public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/archetypal.crit.html.
2. Weis, Mara. “The Christ Complex.” Gnostic, 2007,
3. West, Nathanael. Miss Lonelyhearts. The New Classics, 1933.