The Day of the Locust | Study Guide

Nathanael West

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The Day of the Locust | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Tod Hackett gets a ride back to the office with a carload of actors who were injured on the set. Their animated conversation consists of excitement over the compensation they will receive for their injuries. The actor with a broken leg is particularly excited because he believes his injury will pay best. Much to Tod's surprise, on his return, Faye Greener is waiting in his office. She explains that she is living with Homer Simpson in an arrangement that is purely business: Homer is financing everything she needs in order to become a star. She invites Tod to dinner.

At dinner Tod finds Homer in good spirits and learns that he spends most of his time taking care of the house and Faye. Homer cooks and cleans, brings Faye her breakfast in bed, and takes her to the movies nearly every night and out for an ice cream soda afterwards. Tod has a flash of jealousy but recognizes that Homer can afford it while an aspiring young artist who lives in one room like he does cannot.

In the yard Tod and Homer meet Maybelle Loomis, a "movie mom" and her eight-year-old son, Adore Loomis, an aspiring child star. Adore performs for the men, even demonstrating a sexual awareness that, although it is part of his act and well-rehearsed, is likely not well-informed. Tod finds himself admiring Faye's fresh innocence although her presence leaves him feeling numb and dead. He vows to stop drawing her as a means of not thinking about her. Instead, he spends some months visiting Hollywood churches and drawing the worshippers. He is particularly taken with the "messianic rage" of one man whose fiery speech is impassioned by Hollywood decadence. What also intrigues Tod is the fury of the congregants. Tod respects the "anarchic power" of such crowds, believing they have the potential to "destroy civilization."

Analysis

Wherever Tod Hackett turns, he is confronted by the upside-down nature of the environment he inhabits. His imagination is stirred whenever the balance between what is conventional and obvious to him is transformed by the transgressive behaviors of individuals struggling to fit in and succeed in an atmosphere that is alien to ordinary values. Tod's excitement grows—along with his certainty that he knows what he wants to paint—whenever and wherever he encounters the clash between reality and its transformation by the overgrown ambitions of individuals lacking the talent and drive and—most of all—the luck to succeed in Hollywood, a place that breeds delusion, emotional dishonesty, and disappointment.

Adore Loomis's practiced manners provide an example of a type of moment in which Tod's excitement is rooted—one with potential for violence. The child's "shoulders twitched as though they already felt the strap" when his mother demands he perform. Maybelle Loomis expresses motherly love as menace, a demonstration of physical affection that leaves the boy off balance, rumpled, and sufficiently coerced to do her bidding. The child's performance is well-rehearsed: at once, sexually wise and sexually inappropriate. In this milieu of imitation and illusion, Tod finds himself turned around, dead rather than alive to Faye Greener's duplicity, which presents itself in her superficially innocent beauty. Tod clearly expresses his excitement in the last church he visits in which the locals, who participate neither in the plenty that is Hollywood nor the glory of God, reject and blame the former with a rage that is the infrastructure of their barely denied wishes. Tod as artist is excited by the potential for a clearly unavoidable violence, which he finds wherever illusion and reality draw close, promising to combust should they meet.

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