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The Day of The Locust by Nathanael West

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1090
  • Category: Relations

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Hollywood as a factory of dreams often makes individuals face the harsh reality as well. At the time of the Great Depression, a number of Americans tried their luck in Hollywood in order to acquire fame and capital, but the demand in actors was tiny, comparing to the proposition. Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust” disguises the reverse side of the obsession with Hollywood and lifelong efforts to enter this lush reality. The present paper is designed to discuss the relationship between Tod and Faye through the prism of disillusionment.

First of all, it is important to indicate that Tod is always depicted apart from his friends, even though the relationships with them often become warm and fill with affection. The author portrays Tod in the following way: “His large sprawling body, his slow blue eyes and sloppy grin made him seem completely without talent, almost doltish in fact. Yet, despite his appearance, he was really a very complicated young man with a whole set of personalities, one inside the other like a nest of Chinese boxes” (West, 1969, p.60). Tod seems completely skeptical and apathetic person, due to the fact that he remains to great extent reserved  even in the emotional situations.  Faye, on the contrary, is depicted as a girl of extraordinary beauty (Blyn, 2004; Cramer, 1971), who, similarly to her father, hasn’t yet lost her belief in the shining future and her enthusiasm in her exercises in theater. Due to the fact that Tod divides individuals, surrounding his into two categories, the poseurs and the sincere, he puts a label upon Faye as well. She is also a masquerader, who plays her role, even being out of stage and decorations.

Even though Tod has quite a prejudiced attitude towards the “characters”, incapable of developing the ability to live in the objective reality, he allows himself to become attracted to Faye, as he once notices purity and childishness in her manners and appearance (Cramer, 1971). She once gives him her picture, which shows the girl dressed with overt sexuality, but Tod seems to construct a different image of Faye in his consciousness: “Although she was seventeen, she was dressed like a child of twelve in a white cotton dress with a blue sailor collar. Her long legs were bare and she had blue sandals on her feet” (West, 1969, p.94). Thus, once reaching a high degree of interpersonal closeness, Tod becomes affected to Faye as he seeks to protect her and help the girl cope with the obsessive fantasies, which condition her blunt mannerism (Light, 1971). He feels to some extent responsible (Light, 1971) for this immature person, brought up by the “eternal child” Harry Greener and, inspired by her beauty and infantilism, he seeks her favor. Nevertheless, in spite of their friendship, Faye keeps their relationship distant and to some extent impersonal and once confesses that she cannot really like him, since the protagonist is neither attractive nor affluent. This cruel sincerity appears the first step on Tod’s path to disappointment with Faye (Cramer, 1971).

Therefore, the role of caring father, played by Homer, is actually intended for Tod, who luckily avoids this burden through analyzing his desire for Faye. In fact, after Faye’s father falls ill, Tod should have attended to the girl, but owing to his tendency to estranging from people suspected in a prejudiced attitude towards him, the protagonist merely observes the way Homer is gradually drowning in the oceans of Faye’s charms. The mutual trust between Faye and Tod is almost lost after the latter learns that the girl agrees to live with Homer because the young actor has lured her with new dresses and cozy apartment.

Nevertheless, after Faye tells Tod in the nightclub that it is increasingly more difficult to her to bear Homer’s presence, he again proposes that she becomes his lover: “You worked for Mrs.Jenning. Make believe you’re still working for her” (West, 1969, p.145), but the girl rejects him again. Nevertheless, it is important to make a distinction between his first idealized infatuation with Faye and the passion, described in this episode. In fact, Tod no longer seeks to win Faye’s favor, but merely wishes to have a beautiful lover. Tod’s attention, in turn, flatters Faye’s self-esteem, so she invites him as a “friend of the family” to spend time with her and Homer (Veitch, 1997). The girl seems to have achieved her initial goal and is currently viewed by all male acquaintances (including Tod) as a sexual object.

The destruction of Tod’s relationship with Faye accompanies his final disenchantment with the young promising starlet, who has become a courtesan. At the party, dedicated to the cockfight, Tod sees Faye in a new light , as a woman without pride or principles: “She was wearing tight black lace drawers. Tod took a step toward her and hesitated. She threw the pajama bottoms her arm, turned slowly and walked toward the door” (West, 1969, p.165). Actually, Tod feels embarrassment because of Faye’s behavior rather than the fact of seeing a half-naked female (Veitch, 1997). Faye is no longer valuable to him, either as a friend, or as a lover, as the protagonist realizes the girl is driven by her lust and is always ready to tear her soul into pieces and give them to her audience as souvenirs. In the conversation with Homer, Tod later mentions with disgust that she is a promiscuous female.

To sum up,  the temporal dimension of the relationship between Tod and Faye can be divided into three stages: first of all, Tod seeks to take away Faye’s illusions about the Hollywood career and support her in socialization, but the young lady declines his propositions; furthermore, the relationship vacillates between estrangement, provoked by the furthermore disillusionment, and the appearance of physical desire for possessing Faye; finally, the protagonist realizes he has been just a part of the crowd of her viewers and terminates their friendship.

Works cited

Blyn, R. “Imitating the Siren: The Day of the Locust and the Subject of Sound”. Literature Film Quarterly, 2 (2004), pp. 58-69.

Cramer, C. The World of Nathanael West: A Critical Interpretation. Emporia: Kansas State Teachers College, 1971.

Light, J. Nathanael West: An Interpretive Study. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971.

Veitch, J. American Surrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.

West, N. The Day of the Locust. New Directions Publishing, 1969.

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