Miss Lonelyhearts By Nathanael West Summary and Analysis Chapter 13 - Miss Lonelyhearts Attends a Party

The "party" of this chapter's heading resembles, in its ugliness, Miss Lonelyhearts' previous encounters with drunken, lonely, and satiric people, and when he finally flees the party, in a trance, he exhibits an increasing loss of sanity. All of Miss Lonelyhearts' sexual encounters have left him sick and despairing. After his grotesque visit with the Doyles, he becomes more disturbed than ever. He goes to bed for three days, as if preparing for a sea voyage. He eats crackers in a self-denying ritual and jams the telephone to cut off the world. Unable to learn from his fiasco at the Doyles that he cannot be Christ, he retreats within himself to a state of dreamy and smug serenity. When a fresh round of torments arrives — as Shrike and his friends barge in and insist that Miss Lonelyhearts come with them to a party — Miss Lonelyhearts imagines himself a rock, impervious to Shrike's screams and cynical desecrations. The rock alludes to Saint Peter, the rock on which Christ founded his church.

Shrike is cruelly preparing a party where letters to Miss Lonelyhearts will be read and ridiculed, but Miss Lonelyhearts is so sure of his invulnerability that he does not refuse the invitation. Mary Shrike is present, and Shrike's declaration that she wishes to fight with Miss Lonelyhearts because he had insulted her parallels Miss Lonelyhearts' encounter with the Doyles and foreshadows the novel's tragic ending.

At the party, Miss Lonelyhearts is still confident that he can resist those around him, the way a rock tosses away the sea. Shrike calls Miss Lonelyhearts a swollen Mussolini of the soul, accurately assessing Miss Lonelyhearts' growing megalomania. Shrike enjoys inflating Miss Lonelyhearts' self-importance so that he can destroy it; he has planned this fantastic game for just such an attack on Miss Lonelyhearts.

Shrike paraphrases several desperate letters, adding cynical comments on his own, as well as cruel puns, satirizing popular remedies for social ills. Then Shrike prepares to deliver his trump blow; he hands Miss Lonelyhearts a letter, but Miss Lonelyhearts drops it without reading it. Shrike has been setting Miss Lonelyhearts up to read aloud a letter which would put him in an indefensible and embarrassing position. At this point, Betty leaves and Miss Lonelyhearts follows her, determined to show her how invulnerable he has become. Here, the action proceeds without Miss Lonelyhearts' presence, the only such instance in the novel. But this narrative device is necessary, for Miss Lonelyhearts must continue to see himself as Christ-like and, unknowingly, propel himself forward to his doom. The letter reveals the very real danger that Miss Lonelyhearts is in, although Miss Lonelyhearts is now perhaps too wrapped up in his fantasy to perceive it, even if he had read the letter. Shrike proceeds to read Doyle's accusing letter, which, although based on factual mistakes, correctly accuses Miss Lonelyhearts of hypocrisy. The chapter ends with Shrike's mock-gospel account of Miss Lonelyhearts as the savior moving ever upward, and Shrike revels in the contrast between his little fiction and Miss Lonelyhearts' base behavior.

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