The Day of the Locust | Study Guide

Nathanael West

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The Day of the Locust | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

Harry Greener's illness persists, and Tod Hackett visits him and Faye Greener in the Greeners' apartment nearly every night. Harry often has other guests, and Faye invites Tod to her room for a smoke. Tod continues to find Faye very "exciting" while, at the same time, acknowledging that if any other girl behaved as Faye did, he would find her "intolerable." Tod spends most of his time with Faye listening to her inane fantasies of success, all of which necessarily include great riches. He is implicated in her scheme—she will get rich creating great screenplays, which he will write. Tod thinks about making love to her in her room but believes that her imagination would require a dramatic approach, a violent one, such as rape. Hardly daring to kiss her goodnight, he takes his leave of her and finally kisses her just before he exits the apartment. She makes a playful joke, and hardly moved by the kiss, Tod begins to imagine Faye's image in his great panorama painting, "The Burning of Los Angeles," where she will be chased by an enraged mob of men and women pelting her with rocks.

Analysis

Tod Hackett admits to being fascinated by Faye Greener's artificiality, which he believes is distinct from that of other aspiring actresses. He forgives her because he understands that she had no alternatives; she really believes in the attitudes she espouses. Still, she has some distance from her own behavior; she seems to appreciate how ridiculous it is without knowing how or aspiring to be different. Tod compares spending time with Faye to performing in a very bad play in which the sweating stagehands and the tawdry sets are part of the act—that is, a bad play, in which real life intrudes and all deceptions are apparent on the spot.

In that spirit of tolerance, Tod listens to her silly romantic plots with their contrived, happy endings, in which "happy" means the heroine has found her way to a man who can shower her with wealth. Mostly, Tod barely hears what Faye is saying. Instead, he plans the drawings for his epic study in which Faye, as to be expected, has a bit part.

Faye is to be the girl in the left foreground, naked and chased by an angry group who are separate from the main mob. Faye has a dreamy expression while her body strains to escape. Tod understands this contrast between her expression and her flight to record the sort of release that a game bird must register, fleeing in "complete unthinking panic" as it "bursts from cover."

The reader might wonder at this point, how different is Tod Hackett from Homer Simpson. Absorbed in his art, Tod's fascination with Faye is a sort of erotic disinterest. The sexual fantasy he attributes to her, the notion that she can only be taken by force, is after all, his fantasy, which he attributes to her: likely, in her innocence, not hers at all. In that sense, Tod's sexuality is a mirror of Homer's. Both see violence affecting them as the result of sexual consummation with Faye. Dread seems to be the center of their sexuality. In Tod's case, he is the perpetrator; in Homer's case, Faye's fire is the problem. The difference it would seem lies not in interpersonal dynamics but in the narrative. Tod is a reasonably successful, presumably normal, desirable young man, an artist and graduate of a prestigious university, while Homer is a grotesque rustic from the Midwest, a naïve bookkeeper with hands he cannot control. Where does that leave Faye?

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