The Day of the Locust is novel written by Nathaniel West. The Novel was published in 1939. It depicts the world of 1930s Hollywood. In this novel, Nathaniel focused on the existed disparity between the image presented of Southern California and the reality of the experience of those who were either living or moving there. This is illustrated in The Day of the Locust in two ways. First is in the image of Los Angeles burning that the protagonist is looking forward to paint some day. The disparity is also presented through the use of the characters as a metaphor.
The main character Todd Hackett
The Day of the Locust novel is focused primarily on the life of Todd Hackett. He is a young artist who seems lucky to secure a designing job with a film studio at Los Angeles. He seemed very excited on his arrival at Hollywood. West later introduces “The burning of Los Angels” painting in his second chapter. This portion of his work illustrates that he may be more cynical about the city than it may actually appear.
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The narrative begins by focusing on Tad and then Homer. He then moves to describe the other people whom they had known through Faye. All of the characters seem to be struggling in their life in some manner. This may be seen as a style by West to enable him to deliberately depict his characters as petty in order to amplify the metaphors they represent. West was able to depict the shallowness of his characters’ dream and the kind of success that Los Angeles appears to offer.
From West’s Novel, none of the characters appears to be successful except for their hope that their time for achievement will one day come. Faye continues with her attempts to become a starlet attracting people like Homer who had failed to reinvent himself in California. Harry is equally portrayed as neither a good salesman nor a good actor. They are used by the artist to demonstrate what falsehood in the dream the California offers to its citizen. Contrary to this fact, it has proved impossible for the characters to cast away the desire to realize this dream based on the existing few success stories. According to Faye, any dream was better than no dream. Such notions seemed to have succeeded in encouraging the characters to persist in the pursuit of their dream despite their obvious failure.
Faye has been used by the artist to bring out the theme of the superficial nature of things that West is signifying in his metaphors. She avoided having a meaningful relationship with Todd Hackett because he had neither money nor looks to offer her. However, because of her insincerity, Todd pursued her further. He finds her affection so artificial that they become appealing and enjoyable. More highlight of this surface image is revealed later in the narrative by the narrator providing a connection between the selling of the dream of California and the need to promote its image.
Significantly, it is clear that by the end of the novel only Todd manages to achieve his goal among all the characters. He manages to paint the image of The Burning of Los Angels which had been his dream since he shifted to the city. The importance of his success is that it is rooted in the experience and image of destruction. The success seemed to have resulted from his experience of the riot by the people who were waiting to see the stars arrive for an opening. It is during this time that he manages to visualize and paint his artwork.
The narrative comments during the riot reveal that the crowd finally realizes the truth of the state of California. They discover that their helplessness is becoming worse. They realize that their leaders have tricked them and are treating them with hatred. This is not only dishonesty on the part of the leaders but a betrayal. They realize that their long time in slavery is not going to bear any fruits. The angry mob therefore resorts to chase after a mindlessly smiling Greener. Her smile indicates the extent to which she is different to the aspirations she advocates for. As a result of these terrible events, Todd succeeds in his goal to paint the picture of The Burning of Los Angeles.
The success from destruction is well evidenced throughout The Day of the Locust. This theme allows West’s work to illustrate a sense of joyous inevitably about destruction or luck of success which contradicts with his naivety and knowingness. Though the characters understand their failure, they have a sense of success from a mere fact that they are near Hollywood. Todd had seemed to know from the beginning of the novel that moving to Los Angels might as well mean he never paints again. This could have been the destruction of his artistic carrier which he wanted to continue with. For West’s characters, the inevitable destructive force of Los Angeles and Hollywood is precisely what makes it attractive. It is revealed that they desire it and fears it at the same time.
Faye Greener as a false dream
The novel is particularly important as it demonstrates the falsehood in the dream that California offers to its citizen. In this society, there is only one distorted and false dream personified in the character of Faye Greener. Faye represents Hollywood and she is playing roles which can never be real to anyone. The problem is that she has an inviting way a bout her that seems to offer intimacy but never delivers. She, as Hollywood represents the failure of the American dreams. She was unable to fulfill her promises but instead offers a false hope. Many Americans portrayed moving westwards with the hope of getting a chance to be part of the dream factory. However, their dream doesn’t come to a reality as they fail to achieve anything while at Hollywood. Their dreams have been reduced to Faye Greener who represents failure.