The Day of the Locust | Study Guide

Nathanael West

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Day of the Locust Study Guide." Course Hero. 16 Mar. 2018. Web. 19 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Day-of-the-Locust/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2018, March 16). The Day of the Locust Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Day-of-the-Locust/

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Day of the Locust Study Guide." March 16, 2018. Accessed September 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Day-of-the-Locust/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "The Day of the Locust Study Guide," March 16, 2018, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Day-of-the-Locust/.

The Day of the Locust | Plot Summary

Share
Share
See Plot Diagram

Summary

Tod Hackett meets Faye Greener

A young man, Tod Hackett, has been living in Hollywood, working as a set and costume designer for about three months. One day he finds Abe Kusich passed out on the floor in the seedy hotel where Tod is staying. A few days later while Tod is apartment hunting, he runs into Abe again, and Abe takes Tod to check out the San Bernardino Arms apartments. There, Tod sees alluring Faye Greener for the first time and decides on the spot to rent an apartment just to be near her.

In time, Tod becomes acquainted with 17-year-old Faye and her father, Harry Greener. Faye finds Tod suitable for no more than an impersonal friendship since she could never love a man who doesn't have money or good looks. Nevertheless, Tod continues to lust after her. To quell his frustration he often thinks about the epic painting he has conceived called "The Burning of Los Angeles." In preparation for the masterwork, he has drawn portraits of Abe, Faye, and Harry performing before a menacing crowd. He calls the set of lithographs he is making based on the portraits, "The Dancers." According to Tod, the people in the crowd stand for those who "come to California to die," their eyes "filled with hatred." One night, as he dresses for a party at the home of screenwriter Claude Estee, Tod thinks about Faye.

At Claude's house, which is "an exact reproduction of the old Dupuy mansion" in Mississippi, Tod meets some wacky, off-kilter people and sees a fake dead horse lying on the bottom of the swimming pool. From Claude's, the party wheels over to Audrey Jenning's brothel to see naughty French movies. Tod runs into Mary Dove, Faye Greener's best friend, and briefly wonders over the possibility of Faye becoming a prostitute too. Tod actually goes as far as getting Claude to ask Audrey Jenning if Faye works for her. When that doesn't work, Claude asks Mrs. Jenning to see if Faye is available, through Mary Dove. He is told "nothing doing," but he still hopes to find some way to get Faye into bed.

In the days to follow, Tod hangs around Faye's a lot because her father, Harry Greener, is very ill, and Tod has found a great excuse for spending time where he can surely see Faye. Tod genuinely likes Harry, and he enjoys listening to Harry's stories of his good old days as a vaudeville performer. One day, while visiting at Faye and Harry's, Tod catches a glimpse of Homer Simpson, Faye's newest suitor. Tod answers the door at Faye's and encounters Homer, who announces his name, hands Tod wine and flowers, and then turns and flees.

Homer Simpson meets Faye Greener

About a month before Harry Greener became ill, Homer Simpson had moved from Wayneville, Iowa to Hollywood at the advice of his doctors. Homer, a 40-year-old, former hotel bookkeeper, likely a virgin and recently traumatized by a near sexual encounter he had at work in Iowa, suffers from neurotic symptoms. He can't always feel his hands, and he has trouble sleeping because each time he falls asleep, he fears he won't wake up. Homer spends his first night crying in the bathtub in a house he has rented in Los Angeles. He is thinking about Romola Martin, an alcoholic who let Homer paw her in her hotel room for a little money. When Homer finally gets out of the tub, he finds the courage to walk down to Hollywood Boulevard and buy some canned soup and sardines for dinner.

A month goes by and Homer spends every day in his backyard watching a lizard stalk flies. Eventually, Homer's sad memories stop haunting him. One peaceful, sunny afternoon, Harry Greener shows up at Homer's front door, selling silver polish. However much Harry Greener puts on a ridiculous performance to sucker buyers into shelling out sympathy bucks for the polish he makes in his apartment, this time, Harry is having a real dizzy spell and chest pains. Homer gives Harry some water and invites him to sit down on the couch. When it becomes clear that Harry needs a doctor, Homer goes outside seeking help. He finds Faye Greener at the curb waiting for her father. Homer invites Faye in to see about Harry. While Harry rests, Homer makes Faye lunch. Faye and her father leave soon after, but Homer is hooked; he cannot forget about her. First, he drums up the courage to walk past her apartment, which is located on the same canyon street as his house is. The next night Homer brings flowers and wine to Faye's door. When Tod Hackett answers the door, Homer bolts and runs.

Tod Joins Faye and Earle Shoop on Their Date

In the meantime, Tod has continued to pursue Faye Greener. She invites Tod to come along on her dinner date with another of her suitors, Earle Shoop. Faye's plan is to have Earle pay for dinner since she feels that Tod picks up the tab for the threesome all too often. Although Tod doesn't want to go, he agrees to tag along. He shows up early at their meeting place in front of Hodge's saddlery, Earle's usual hangout. Earle, a cowboy from Arizona and mostly unemployed movie extra, spends many of his days standing on the sidewalk and talking to his friends Calvin and Hink. When Tod first meets Earle and his friends, he thinks they just pretend to talk like cowboys, but they aren't pretending. When Faye arrives at the appointed time, Earle and Tod say goodbye to Calvin and Hink and climb into Faye's car. When she finds out Earle doesn't have any money, she is furious. Earle offers to cook some quail he has trapped at his "camp" high up in one of the canyons.

Another man, Miguel, is already up at the camp in the canyon, tending his gamecocks, when Faye, Earle, and Tod arrive. Earle kills, plucks, and cooks the illegally trapped quail, and everyone swigs from the tequila bottle being passed among them. Miguel and Faye's dance grows into a seduction while Earle beats time with a stick. Earle's jealousy erupts, and he bashes his friend Miguel on the head with the stick. Miguel goes down, Faye runs off, and Tod springs to his feet and chases after her, intending to rape her. She gets away, and Tod slips and falls. Distracted and on the ground, he calms down and lets his thoughts drift to plans for his epic painting, "The Burning of Los Angeles." He wants to show the city engulfed in flames, bright enough "to compete with the desert sun." The flames will be "less fearful," more like "a gala" than a "terrible holocaust." After a while, Tod stands up and walks up the canyon to where Faye had left her car. But Faye and the car are no longer there.

Harry Greener's Funeral

The next night Tod tries to see Faye Greener, but she is out with Homer Simpson. Tod sticks around to visit with Harry Greener and hear more stories about Harry's failed career. Tod wonders if performers feel as deeply as people who don't act for a living. He wonders if "actors suffer less than other people." He determines that Harry is suffering just as much as anyone, and Harry is really sick.

A little while after Harry falls asleep and Faye comes quietly into the apartment and shushes Tod. They tiptoe into her bedroom. Tod tries to question Faye about Homer Simpson, but she tells Tod she's tired, and he leaves.

Tod finds out the next afternoon that Harry Greener died during the night. He tries to console Faye, but he doesn't know what to say. Mary Dove rushes in and takes over. Then Mrs. Johnson, the cleaning lady, knocks on the door. She wants to help with the funeral arrangements. The only problem is that Harry and Faye are penniless. Tod and Mary offer to help, but Faye decides she will prostitute herself and raise the money she needs for a decent dress and her father's funeral expenses.

The day of the funeral Tod shows up drunk and during the first chance he gets to speak to Faye, he badgers her about prostitution. Having no legitimate excuse to interfere in her life or decisions, he settles for yelling at her about how sexually transmitted diseases could destroy her beauty. Faye runs from him, and Tod sits in a side room until an usher kicks him out. Trying to sneak away, Tod gets trapped in the chapel where people have come to view Harry's body and hear a sermon. Tod daydreams, contemplating ideas for his painting, "The Burning of Los Angeles." He determines that the people in the chapel are not the kind to be "torchbearers themselves, they would run behind the fire and do a great deal of the shouting." Everyone around him appears to be the victim of vicious boredom. The funeral attendees seem to tremble "on the edge of violence." Next, Tod critiques the music, Bach's "Come Redeemer, Our Saviour," and tries to imagine how it makes everyone around him feel. Mrs. Johnson stops the music abruptly and uses guilt tactics to force people to come up and view the body. Tod takes this as an opportunity to escape the funeral parlor.

Tod Looks for Faye

The day after the funeral Tod cannot find Faye Greener. Tod Hackett doesn't know where she went, but she no longer lives at the San Bernardino Arms apartments. One day, just as Tod is considering calling Audrey Jenning to inquire about Faye, he catches sight of her walking past his office window on the studio lot. He reasons she must be there working as an extra on the movie Waterloo, where Tod did some designing. He rushes out of his office to find Faye but many different defunct movie sets or movies in production hinder him. He describes all the sets and actors in their character costumes he sees along the way, from a "fleet of dump trucks dumping white sand," to the empty porch of a fake saloon, to a group of actors picnicking, eating "cardboard food" next to a "cellophane waterfall." He arrives on the set of Waterloo only moments before one of the crew makes a mistake and sends actors onto an unfinished set—a hill in the middle of being built—that collapses from all the weight. Tod gets a ride back through the lot in a studio car full of injured actors.

To his surprise, Faye, who wasn't in the battle scene, is waiting for him outside his office. She thanks Tod for his advice about her prostituting herself. She isn't in that line anymore. She also tells Tod she's been living with Homer Simpson. They have a business arrangement. He is paying for all of her clothes and living expenses, and she will pay him back when she is famous. Faye invites Tod to Homer's for dinner the next evening, and he accepts her invitation.

After dinner the next evening Tod, Faye, and Homer hear a woman calling for "Adore." Their curiosity aroused by the unusual name they hear being shouted, they all go outside to see what someone named Adore might be like. They soon meet Maybelle Loomis and her eight-year-old son, Adore Loomis. Maybelle tells them Adore is going to be a big star. She makes the boy sing for them, which results in a strange, sexually charged, yet mechanical performance. Later, Faye, Tod, and Homer go to the movies. After the evening is over and Tod returns home, he decides to stop lusting after Faye once and for all. He takes down all of his drawings of her and puts them away. He avoids her for the next several months, preferring instead to visit churches looking for religious fanatics to inspire his art.

Faye and Homer and the Cockfight

One night Faye Greener and Homer Simpson show up while Tod is getting ready for bed and cajole him into going out on the town with them. They go to a nightclub where Faye, who has grown bored and restless living with Homer, forces drinks down Homer's throat and publicly humiliates him. Tod feels sympathy for Homer, but he still lusts after Faye. When they are alone on the dance floor, he begs her to sleep with him, but she refuses. Instead, she invites him over for a cockfight Miguel and Earle Shoop have arranged. It's taking place tomorrow night in Homer's garage.

Tod shows up with Claude Estee, who has never seen a cockfight and is curious. The cockfight has been canceled since the competition failed to show up, but Claude buys one of Earle's chickens and they let them fight, but without anyone betting. Abe Kusich is there, too, and he takes charge of Hermano, the chicken Claude buys. The chickens engage in a brutal, bloody fight, tearing bits of flesh off of each other. Hermano's beak breaks, and he loses against Miguel's champion chicken and dies. Homer, who has been in the house during the cockfight, invites everyone in for drinks. Inside, Faye flirts with Claude Estee, whom she is just meeting for the first time. Tensions soon run high when Faye begins to dance with Miguel and each man grows jealous with the seductive way Miguel has his hands inside Faye's pajama shirt. Earle Shoop begins to dance with Faye, and then Abe Kusich tries to cut in. Abe hits Earle between the legs, so Miguel picks up Abe, who is a little person (called a "dwarf" in the book), and bashes him against a wall, knocking him out. Tod stops Miguel from killing Abe. When Abe comes to, he, Claude, and Tod leave the party.

Tod returns the next day to apologize to Homer and finds out that Faye had sex with Miguel last night. Homer accidentally saw them in bed together, Earle and Miguel had a fistfight over it, and then Faye left. Homer is so devastated by Faye leaving that he curls up into a ball after he spills out all of the events of the night before. Tod is worried about him but leaves, figuring he will check on Homer later and call a doctor if he isn't doing any better.

The End of Homer Simpson

Later, on his way back from dinner, Tod Hackett stops to study the crowd of people standing outside of Kahn's Persian Palace Theatre waiting for celebrities to appear for a world premiere of a new film. Thousands of people crowd the streets, and Tod gets jostled almost immediately. Someone knocks off his hat and then someone else kicks him. They only help him up because he laughs along with them. Tod fights his way through the crowd and reaches a low wall. He sits down to observe, but the mob swells again and crowds him. Tod crosses to the other side of the street and sees Homer Simpson in the crowd. Homer looks like a robot, an "automaton"; he's disheveled, his pants are pulled sloppily over his pajamas, and his fly is down, his dressing gown peeking through. Tod pushes his way to him. Homer tells Tod he is going back to Wayneville, and Tod offers to get him a cab and accompany him to the train station. Tod tells Homer to wait there, but when Tod leaves to get a cab, he sees Homer walking, again like a robot.

Now Tod sees Homer sitting on a bench. He tries to help Homer again, by offering to carry one of his suitcases. Homer yells, "thief!" so Tod stands aside and keeps an eye on Homer, trying to think of what to do to help him. Tod also notices Adore Loomis trying to play a trick on Homer, but Homer is too dazed to notice. Adore, frustrated because Homer is ignoring him, hits Homer in the head with a rock. Homer leaps up and stomps on Adore's back, again and again, crushing the little boy. People notice him murdering Adore Loomis, and they grab Homer in their frenzied clutches and sweep him up, carrying him away, and, it is implied, tearing him apart.

Tod tries to get to Homer, but the crowd presses him in, and he can barely breathe let alone go in a specific direction. Tod fights the crowd while searing pains shoot through his leg, which is later revealed to be broken. While Tod tosses in the crowd, seeing men grabbing lustfully at women and hearing people talking, he begins to paint flames in his mind—for his painting, "The Burning of Los Angeles." Eventually, Tod finds an iron railing to hold onto. A woman tries to hold onto Tod for support, but he kicks her off of him and back into the riotous crowd. A policeman on the other side of the railing grabs Tod, and, with the help of a second man, pulls him from the crowd. From inside a police car, Tod hears a siren and wonders if he is making the noise. He is not—his lips are pressed together. Then Tod laughs hysterically, opens his mouth, and wails along with the siren.

The Day of the Locust Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Tod Hackett has left the Northeast to work in Hollywood.

Rising Action

2 Homer Simpson recently fell ill and moved to Hollywood.

3 Tod meets Faye Greener and falls in love with her.

4 Homer meets Faye and grows obsessed with her.

5 Faye's father, Harry Greener, dies.

6 Faye prostitutes herself to pay for the funeral.

7 Faye moves in with Homer in a strictly business arrangement.

8 Faye's friends, Miguel and Earle Shoop, live in the garage.

9 Faye sleeps with Miguel and leaves Homer's house afterward.

10 Homer collapses in grief; Tod fails to help him.

Climax

11 Tod, trying to help Homer, gets caught in a rioting mob.

Falling Action

12 Tod witnesses Adore Loomis throw a rock at Homer.

13 Homer stomps Adore to death, and a mob kills Homer.

14 The crushing mob breaks Tod's leg, and police rescue him.

Resolution

15 Tod screams along with a siren and erupts in manic laughter.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Day of the Locust? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!