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The Day of the Locust | Study Guide

Nathanael West

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The Day of the Locust | Chapter 6 | Summary



Tod Hackett is not terribly disappointed to learn that Faye Greener is not accessible through Audrey Jenning. Instead, he befriends the Greener family, running errands for Faye's father, Harry Greener, who is not well. In return Harry regales Tod with stories of his theatrical past. Harry Greener had been a clown and had substantial experience in vaudeville. Although Harry had been a failure on stage, he had a single favorable review from the Sunday Times, and armed with several copies of the review, Harry had come to Hollywood. Unsuccessful in landing enough work, he now makes silver polish, which he sells door to door with Faye's help.

On one of their peddling excursions Harry falls ill. Around that time Faye meets Homer Simpson, who becomes a wealthy suitor she encourages. When Tod meets Homer, who stops by to visit Faye and Harry with flowers for Faye and port for Harry in hand, Tod recognizes him as one of those men who "comes to California to die." More than once, thereafter, Tod discovers Homer lurking outside the San Bernardino Arms, gazing up at the Greeners' apartment. Tod admits to having sympathy for Homer who, after an initial reticence, seems comfortable enough to share conversation with Tod.


Tod Hackett's easy shift from wanting to buy Faye Greener's services to becoming her friend seems natural and sincere. Moreover, Tod has a painter's fascination with her father, the old clown. Although Harry Greener dresses in costume, like the phonies Tod observes in the street, Harry, in Tod's view is authentic. Tod sees it in Harry's clothing, which imitates a banker's outfit—except that everything is old and faded. Tod recognizes authenticity as well in Faye's dreams. He is also sympathetic to Homer even though he is a rival for Faye's affections. In Homer's "fever eyes" and "unruly hands," Tod recognizes someone who has come to California to die. His kindly treatment of Homer is rewarded by Homer's uncharacteristically garrulous conversation. Thus, Tod surrounds himself with subjects for his painting, not the ordinary denizens of Hollywood's streets, but those whose desire to participate, while their inability to do so became the afflictions in the everydayness of Hollywood's artificiality. They are misfits in the earnest nature of their desires in a setting in which fitting in means standing out, becoming a star, no matter the sacrifice of authenticity, is the rule.

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