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The Day of the Locust | Study Guide

Nathanael West

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The Day of the Locust | Chapter 9 | Summary



The reader remains in Homer Simpson's past, in his first day and his first bath in the Pinyon Canyon house. Homer gets out of the tub, dresses, and decides to go down to Hollywood Boulevard to shop for dinner. The night is hot and still, and Homer stops in the circle of light at each lamppost in order to quell his night fears. He has the impulse to run although he does not. When Homer is almost to the store, a beggar stops him and demands money. Although Homer is reluctant and, in fact, says "no," he takes a few coins from his pocket and drops them on the ground when the beggar asks a second time. In the market Homer notices that spotlights shine on the produce and meats to enhance the natural color of each food item. He selects a nearly colorless meal—a can of mushroom soup, a tin of sardines, and some soda crackers.


Although it is only eight o'clock, Homer Simpson is fearful. He stays in the circles of light the streetlamps make as he heads to the market. Homer worries about the beggar and capitulates once the man sticks his nose in Homer's face. Homer purposely drops coins on the ground for the man in order to have time to get away while the beggar gathers the money. It is early evening and there are other people around on the busy street, yet Homer does not feel safe. The SunGold Market is "brilliantly lit" and its walls and fixtures are bright: all white tile and chrome. Still he makes his near colorless, "safe" purchases: tinned sardines, canned mushroom soup, and white soda crackers. The sole colors in this dark chapter emanate from the spotlight in the market, its rainbow lights trained to enhance nature, focusing on the colorful skins of the individual fruits and vegetables. Throughout the novel West maintains a tension between the natural and artificial, as well as between the weak and the strong. Heading home, Homer, still disconcerted, hesitates at the foot of the dark hill, thinks about waiting for someone to climb with him, and finally hails a cab. He lacks the strength to walk up a hill by himself.

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