Are May Day and Miss Lonelyhearts Visions of a Meaningless World?
There are always two aspects of reality. The first one is the objective aspect that consists of the external events and processes. The second is the subjective aspect that refers to people’s perception of these events. These two aspects can be both correlated and uncorrelated. If the subjective perception of reality is negative, people will feel desperate and depressed despite the objective state of affairs. This paper examines the short story May Day (2009) by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the novel Miss Lonelyhearts (2013) by Nathanael West. In particular, it is necessary to determine whether these works can be considered as the examples of visions of a meaningless world. In general, they seem to present the authors’ position that the existing social and economic system is unjust rather than meaningless.
Fitzgerald presents the important historical events of the May Day Riots of 1919. The members of the lower classes fight for their rights. In particular, they understand that the declared democracy does not guarantee equal rights and opportunities for all people. On the contrary, it serves as a mechanism for continuing the constant exploitation and the domination of some people by others. The representatives of the upper classes have almost unrestricted opportunities while the rest of the population experiences very tough economic conditions. Fitzgerald also presents another set of events. He describes the people from the upper class who are absolutely disinterested in all these social processes and prefer spending their time concentrating on their personalities. For example, the author describes one of the characters in the following way: “Dean lit a cigarette … inspecting his calves and knees under the morning sunshine which poured into the room” (Fitzgerald 7).
These people are completely unconcerned with the rest of the population. Finally, they have decided to meet for a Gamma Psi dance. It seems that Fitzgerald stresses that the existing social and economic orders in the United States is unfair. The minor fraction of the population controls the largest fraction of the social wealth while others have to fight for their survival. The problem is that privileged people do not want to change this state of affairs and try to continue their exploitation. However, Fitzgerald shows that they are also unhappy, because wealth does not lead to happiness if it is unsupported by the moral behavior and responsible attitude towards others.
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Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West contains similar ideas. Miss Lonelyhearts is the male columnist who receives numerous letters from the citizens of New York experiencing the despair. Ultimately, Miss Lonelyhearts also becomes feeling depression and experiencing psychological problems. Despite various attempts of escaping the burden of reading the letters and depression, all attempts are unsuccessful. The novel ends in a tragedy as Mr. Doyle kills Miss Lonelyhearts since Mrs. Doyle told him that Miss Lonelyhearts tried to rape her. Although it was not true, Mr. Doyle was affected by emotions and was radical in his actions.
It seems that West makes a point that serious social and economic problems cannot be hidden and resolved by any artificial means. The only method he supports is religion. West believes that religion contains the strongest message and can help people to increase their strengths and abilities for withstand all difficulties. The author presents the thoughts of Miss Lonelyhearts who stated that “Christ is life and light” (West 57). West believes that if people orient their thoughts and actions toward God, they can arrive at correct conclusions and actions. Although religion can improve people’s subjective perception of the external reality, it cannot affect the patterns of wealth distribution globally. In addition, the majority of rich people from both works do not demonstrate any considerable interest in religion and try to satisfy only their narrow interests.
In general, both Fitzgerald and West demonstrate the state of depression that was highly widespread among people at that historical period. Its causes were the large-scale social injustice and exploitation. The entire social system oriented to the needs of the privileged people who had substantial amounts of money and other resources. The needs of others were neglected completely. The key idea is that the world is fundamentally unjust, and when people observe this injustice, they may experience depression and other psychological problems. It seems that the authors encourage the members of upper classes to become more responsible and understand the needs and demands of people with low income. The existing social and economic problems can be resolved only if all people coordinate their effort properly.
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It may be concluded that the short story May Day by Fitzgerald and the novel Miss Lonelyhearts by West do not contain the message that the world is meaningless. They recognize that meanings can always exist, but they focus the readers’ attention on the feelings experienced by major characters. The underlying reason of people’s difficult psychological state is the large-scale social and economic injustice. Thus, both works contribute to cooperation among people in a mutually beneficial way. Moreover, it is necessary to avoid economic exploitation and create comparatively equal opportunities for all people regardless of their social class, origin, and similar characteristics. Consequently, it will lead to the sustainable social development. This message is still relevant in the 21st century and may affect people’s behavior and attitude towards other in a positive way.