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The Day of the Locust | Study Guide

Nathanael West

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The Day of the Locust | Chapter 2 | Summary



Tod Hackett lives in a shabby residence hotel populated by a sort of Hollywood underworld—neither the rich and famous nor the comfortably domestic. The characters he names are the beautiful Faye Greener, her father, Harry Greener, and "Honest Abe Kusich." Tod's first encounter with Abe, a small person—described as a dwarf in this text written in 1937–39—occurs when Tod finds the small man wrapped in a woman's robe in a heap outside of a hotel room across from Tod's. It turns out that Abe had been dumped without his clothing outside the door of a woman he was "visiting." After some vulgar threats, she finally sends his clothing sailing out of the door. Abe dresses in Tod's room, promising the young man some racing tips, and then leaves. A few days later Tod runs into Abe again at a stationery store. Tod admits he's looking for an apartment, and Abe suggests Tod move to the San Bernardino Arms where Abe and his friends, the Greeners, live. When Tod sees Faye Greener for the first time, he decides to rent the apartment.


This is an angry, ugly chapter. Abe Kusich is a ball of fury directed for the time being at the woman behind the door who has kicked him out. He calls her a slut and lewdly reviews his kindnesses to her, including financing her abortion and getting her "fiddle out of hock." Tod Hackett acknowledges that Abe's anger excites him. This notion of excitement, this word that seems so unfitting for what Tod experiences, as it is inappropriately applied to the artificiality of Hollywood in the preceding chapter, repeats here. Tod's excitement is aroused by unseemly, even depraved behavior. It is linked somehow to what is real about Hollywood, not the tinsel and the lavish costumes, but unconventionally unpleasant circumstances. Abe's pugnacity, the reader learns in this chapter, is real. In fact, he is known for his angry attitudes and often teased by his friends just to get him going. His anger is a local joke—another example of unconventional responses. Although the rooms at the San Bernardino Arms are not terribly clean, Tod, influenced by a glance at Faye Greener, makes the switch on the spot.

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