Character Analysis Shrike


The feature editor of the New York Post-Dispatch, and Miss Lonelyhearts' nasty boss, Shrike bears the name of a bird that impales its prey upon thorns, implying that as Shrike's victim, Miss Lonelyhearts is a kind of Christ. Shrike is older than Miss Lonelyhearts and plays the part of a father, but his guidance is cynical and destructive. Shrike has a wife who can't satisfy him, and he enjoys the suffering which his sadism brings him and the justification it gives him for infidelity. He is very well read and compulsively witty, and he uses this learning and wit to demolish all hopeful views of human nature. Virtually all of Shrike's speeches and actions indicate that he believes that everyone is lustful, selfish, and self-deluded.

Shrike ridicules art, religion, and love, although there are some slight hints that he would like to take pleasure in art and love, and would like to believe in something. His mocking of all positive values suggests that he is ashamed of his inability to live by them. His most savage satire is directed towards cultural stereotypes of love, hope, and success. He functions as an alter ego for Miss Lonelyhearts, who shares Shrike's doubts and conflicts, but struggles to believe that everything is not futile. Shrike treats Miss Lonelyhearts ruthlessly, partly because he can't bear to witness in Miss Lonelyhearts traces of the hope that he is trying to crush in himself. Unlike Miss Lonelyhearts, Shrike can survive because he has created for himself the semblance of a uniform identity. In spite of his conflicts, he has achieved an inner equilibrium. Although he continues to suffer, he does not seem to be in danger of the kind of severe emotional and mental breakdown that destroys Miss Lonelyhearts.

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