Summary and Analysis
Chapter 3 - Miss Lonelyhearts and the Lamb
This chapter's heading refers to the Lamb as Christ, to Miss Lonelyhearts himself, and to the sacrificial lamb in his second dream. The focus is on Miss Lonelyhearts' pursuit of the lamb, which he will kill clumsily. Frustrated by his inability to help his readers and tormented by Shrike's degradation of natural values, he turns to Christianity, especially as embodied in Dostoevsky's Father Zossima, who advises that one should love all of creation. Creation, however, is the world of Miss Lonelyhearts' letters and of nature, as Shrike sees it. Miss Lonelyhearts' nailing his ivory Christ to the wall is futile; it makes Christ merely decorative. Miss Lonelyhearts wonders what his true vocation is, and he becomes hysterical because he knows he really can't preach love because it is an illusion. Both of Miss Lonelyhearts' dreams show that he is a failed priest who can only put the lamb that he had intended for a religious sacrifice out of its misery — by crushing its head with a stone. In the first dream, he does tricks with doorknobs and leads mechanical prayers, which suggest that doors will not open naturally. His ironic prayer, borrowed from Shrike, ostensibly praises the blood of the lamb over all other fluids, but the prayer actually equates religion with a vulgar medicine show. Shrike's voice, as so often in the novel, fuses internally with Miss Lonelyhearts' own.
Miss Lonelyhearts' second dream, involving the sacrificial killing of a lamb by Miss Lonelyhearts and some college classmates, is so realistic that some readers do not notice that it is presented as a dream, for it resembles memory more than dream. In any case, it indicates that Miss Lonelyhearts' religious obsessions have a long history. The dream is a parody of a religious procession, with Miss Lonelyhearts as priest. But as a sacrificial priest he is clumsy, his knife is dull, and, failing to kill the lamb cleanly, he must stone it to death to end its misery. The dreams imply that, for Miss Lonelyhearts, religion is fakery and magic — a cruel ritual that defaces nature, for the lamb is left to the flies amid the bloody flowers. Miss Lonelyhearts wants to bring a dead world (his readers) to life, but seemingly, he is able only to kill.