In the story, Miss Lonelyhearts is an unnamed male newspaper columnist writing an advice column which the newspaper staff considers a joke. As Miss Lonelyhearts reads letters from desperate New Yorkers, he feels terribly burdened and falls into a cycle of deep depression, accompanied by heavy drinking and occasional bar fights.
Although the deadline was less than a quarter of an hour away, he was still working on his leader. He had gone as far as: “Life is worth while, for it is full of dreams and peace, gentleness and ecstasy, and faith that burns like a clear white flame on a grim dark altar.” But he found it impossible to continue. The letters were no longer funny. He could not go on finding the same joke funny thirty times a day for months on end. And on most days he received more than thirty letters, all of them alike, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife.