Literature Study GuidesMiss LonelyheartsMiss Lonelyhearts In The Country Summary

Miss Lonelyhearts | Study Guide

Nathanael West

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Course Hero. "Miss Lonelyhearts Study Guide." Course Hero. 3 Nov. 2017. Web. 20 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Miss-Lonelyhearts/>.

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Course Hero. "Miss Lonelyhearts Study Guide." November 3, 2017. Accessed September 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Miss-Lonelyhearts/.

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Miss Lonelyhearts | Miss Lonelyhearts in the Country | Summary

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Summary

At this time, Betty visits Miss Lonelyhearts daily for more than a week, bringing him soup and chicken. He tries to talk to her about the advice column, but she changes the subject, talking instead about life on a farm.

On the first day of spring Miss Lonelyhearts starts to feel better. Betty says they should go visit her family's old farm. Her aunt still owns it, although the farmhouse hasn't been lived in for many years. They drive to Connecticut to spend a weekend on the farm.

They camp out in the farmhouse kitchen. They eat dinner and go to look at the pond. They see a heron and some deer. At night they look at the stars and then go to bed together. Betty tells him she is a virgin, so "he let[s] her alone and [goes] to sleep."

The next morning Miss Lonelyhearts drives to town to get fruit and newspapers. He tells a gas station attendant about the deer. The man replies there are still deer because no Jewish people are in the area; he uses the nasty slur "yids" to refer to Jewish people. He tells Miss Lonelyhearts that "it wasn't the hunters who drove out the deer, but the yids."

Back on the farm Miss Lonelyhearts goes for a walk in the woods. He finds it is "very sad under the trees." The decaying leaves and fungus remind him of death, "and over everything [is] a funereal hush."

Betty and Miss Lonelyhearts go swimming in the pond. Betty does some housework. Naked, she hangs up the laundry and Miss Lonelyhearts watches her. He blows her a kiss. He jumps over the porch rail and rushes to embrace her.

Analysis

Miss Lonelyhearts is at his happiest in this chapter. He is so happy he is barely recognizable, blowing kisses and gamboling in the grass. But he is not happy nonstop. When he was a child he felt melancholy during quiet times; he was "made sad by the pause between playing and eating" ("Miss Lonelyhearts and the Clean Old Man"). Here in the country, away from the letter writers and away from Shrike's jokey hangers-on, he feels sad: "It was very sad under the trees." Even though it is springtime it seems to be autumn for Miss Lonelyhearts. He notices death and decay in the forest as "rotten leaves, gray and white fungi, and over everything a funereal hush." The garage man's anti-Semitic remark also shows the countryside is not completely idyllic. Also, West and his immediate family were Jews living at a time of dangerous prejudice in both the U.S. and abroad, so such comments were not unknown or rare.

Camping, cooking, and making love, Betty and Miss Lonelyhearts are living out one of the alternatives Shrike proposed in "Miss Lonelyhearts in the Dismal Swamp." Then Shrike had described a country life in which, "the wind carries the smell of pine and dung across the fields." Shrike had said, "the rhythm of an old, old work enters your soul." Betty and Miss Lonelyhearts appear to live according to such a rhythm, for a few days. But this means Miss Lonelyhearts is giving in to one of Shrike's temptations. If Shrike is a Satan figure then the country idyll is a Satanic illusion. Miss Lonelyhearts is shirking his self-created mission of saving the letter writers.

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