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MonkeyNotes-Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
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Miss Lonelyhearts and the Dead Pan

Summary

Quitting work, Miss Lonelyhearts walks across a little park to a bar called Delehanty’s. Remembering the way Shrike always teases and makes fun of him, Miss Lonelyhearts is quite glad to find the speak easy almost empty, especially the fact that Shrike is not present. But soon Shrike catches up with him and advises him to rise out of the gloom of crucifixion, in order to revel in the pleasures of the Renaissance. Miss Lonelyhearts notices the deadpan technique that Shrike uses while speaking.

Miss Farkis, Shrike’s date for the evening, arrives and he starts to speak in loud declamation, which Miss Lonelyhearts calls, "his seduction speech."


Notes

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West is written in the form of short episodes taken from the life of Miss Lonelyhearts from the New York Post. This episode is named ‘Miss Lonelyhearts and the Dead Pan.’ Dead pan, Miss Lonelyhearts explains is the trick that is used by movie comedians where they make elaborate gestures without any expressions on their face. Shrike, according to Miss Lonelyhearts, speaks in this way. This symbolically draws the reader’s attention to the way men lead their lives, unfeelingly carrying out the monotonous activities of their lives. Shrike’s meaningless existence is depicted through his actions.

West’s remarkable skill at humor and intelligent wit is manifest in this portion of the book, when he believes that he has only one more stone, (perhaps standing for false hope) which was in his guts, to give to his readers, and he looks at the sky as a target. The sky is described as have been rubbed by a soiled eraser. West’s comparisons are genuinely striking, especially the one in Shrike’s declamation, where he compares "the wounds in Christ’s body to the mouths of a miraculous purse in which we deposit the small change of our sins."

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