At first titled The Cheated, Nathanael West’s final work, The Day of the Locust, takes its title from the plague of locusts set upon the pharaoh in the Book of Exodus. The Day of the Locust leaves the reader with a pervasive sense of horror that civilization is being destroyed. All the characters in the novel are cheated; they swarm to 1930’s Hollywood in search of cinematic dreams. When these dreams prove to be bogus, these characters, mostly from the lower middle class, turn violent.
The characters in The Day of the Locust are unreal constructions from low-budget movies. In the Hollywood “dream factory,” nothing is what it appears to be. A fat lady in a yachting cap is really a housewife going shopping. An insurance agent is disguised by his Tyrolean hat. Women in slacks, bandannas, and sneakers are office workers. Faye Greener, a main character, is a trashy imitation of the 1930’s Hollywood sex goddesses. Homer Simpson, another main character, is a Midwestern innocent, signified ironically by his powerful hands, which are likened not to hands of creation, building, or strength but rather to rapists’ or stranglers’ hands. The aspiring child star Adore Loomis is also a construction of movie imagery. His grotesque song-and-dance of sexual pain is ludicrous and painful to watch.
The identities of all characters in The Day of the Locust have been formed by media images. Harry Greener,...
(The entire section is 475 words.)