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MonkeyNotes-Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
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Miss Lonelyhearts and the Lamb

Summary

Miss Lonelyhearts returns home and reads The Brothers Karamazov. The passage he reads inspires him to spread the message of love and he plans to do this through his column. But he realizes that this message would again be the butt of Shrike’s jokes as it has something to do with Jesus Christ. His recollects that when as a young boy he shouted the name of Christ, ‘something secret and enormously powerful’ moved in him. He now realizes that it was hysteria, but he had always kept a check on it.

In his sleep, he dreams of various things and also recalls an old incident when he was in college with his friends Steve Garvey and Jud Hume. While discussing the existence of God, they run out of whisky. They go to the market at dawn to buy some applejack. They also buy a lamb to sacrifice it to God, an idea suggested by Miss Lonelyhearts, and then to barbecue it. They drag a little lamb up the hill. While making the sacrifice, the blow is inaccurate and only makes a flesh wound. The wounded lamb struggles free and the knife also breaks. Later Miss Lonelyhearts ends its misery by killing it with a stone.


Notes

In ‘Miss Lonelyhearts and the Lamb,’ the lamb signifies Jesus Christ. The world, in which Miss Lonelyhearts lives, is a gloomy place as there is no faith in Christ. Even the figure of Christ on wall of Miss Lonelyhearts’ house, seems more like a decorative piece, than actually Christ. This is a comment on the insignificance of God in the lives of the people in the modern age. People doubt the existence of God, which takes them further away from seeking solace in religion. So, the Christ figure no longer seems to be writhing in pain and suffering due to the sins of men. In fact, to people like Shrike, Christ is just another name for false hope. Even the act of performing a sacrifice of the lamb, fails and deteriorates to an act of frenzy and violence. As the lamb is a symbol of God, by killing it with such brutality perhaps they are denying all the good faith that is present in them. Thus the act of killing the innocent lamb, is a symbol of abolishing every trace of belief in God.

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