Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Hollywood. District of Los Angeles, California, and the symbolic center of the American film industry. The novel opens with Todd Hackett, a graduate of Yale University and cinematic set designer, traversing the National Films studio lot on his way home. He walks among a wild collection of historical and national artifacts—Russian hussars, Scottish warriors, French grenadiers, and a Mississippi steamboat. For the time being Hackett takes the place for granted; its contradictions are simply the norm. However, later in the novel, when he chases Faye Greener across the lot, he is struck by its improbable diversity. A recreation of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo commences beside a Western saloon, which in turn gives way to a Parisian street, a Roman courtyard, and a Greek temple. These sound stages eventually dissolve into a ten-acre field of cockleburs where discarded sets have been left to rot, and their disorder and sheer anomalousness suggest a sea of imaginative dreams. The lot acts as a perfect metaphor for the surreal assemblage of people, lifestyles, and aspirations, all of which are either created or encouraged by Hollywood, the dream factory.

San Bernardino Arms

San Bernardino Arms. Hollywood rooming house in which Hackett resides. Given the garishness Hackett finds all about him, this is a rather unprepossessing place: three stories of unpainted stucco and unadorned windows. The rooms are small and dirty, but Hackett tolerates the place because of his fascination with Faye and her restless aspirations. Like his rooms, Hackett does not draw much attention to himself; he would rather observe and record the world about him than...

(The entire section is 692 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Crowd gathered for the 1939 premier of Gone With the Wind, one of the most popular American movies and the epitome of the Golden Age of Hollywood Published by Gale Cengage

Hollywood's Golden Age
Many film historians and critics consider the 1930s to be Hollywood's golden age. Though much...

(The entire section is 762 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Omniscient Point of View
West's book is written in the third-person with an omniscient narrator, a voice that not only...

(The entire section is 451 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

West's most obvious technique, as in Miss Lonelyhearts, is an intense unity of subject and effect. Over more than four drafts,...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Hollywood as a screenwriter, West saw another embodiment of the popular hope and disillusion he had depicted in Miss Lonelyhearts....

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Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1930s: Hollywood movie studios have a huge amount of control over their actors, even the stars. Actors sign multi-movie...

(The entire section is 425 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

West's death after running a stop sign recalls the implied and explicit violence in his novel. Learn more about West's life and death and...

(The entire section is 255 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931) is a surrealist pastiche of pieces West wrote as an apprentice. Balso enters the bowels of the...

(The entire section is 216 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although West did not work on it in Hollywood, Miss Lonelyhearts was eventually adapted into a B motion picture, Advice to the...

(The entire section is 83 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

The Day of the Locust, starring William Atherton as Tod Hackett, Donald Sutherland as Homer Simpson, and Karen Valentine as Faye...

(The entire section is 39 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

F. Scott Fitzgerald died just one day before West in 1940 and before he could finish The Love of The Last...

(The entire section is 214 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Gehman, Richard B., "Introduction," in The Day of the Locust, Aeonian Press, 1976, pp. ix-xx.


(The entire section is 337 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Comerchero, Victor. Nathanael West: The Ironic Prophet. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1964. Argues that the novel should be read as a satire of a declining Western culture. Perceptive analysis of West’s apocalyptic vision.

Fiedler, Leslie A. “Master of Dreams.” Partisan Review 34, no. 3 (Summer, 1967): 339-356.

Gehman, Richard B. Introduction to The Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West. New York: New Directions, 1950.

Madden, David, ed. Nathanael West: The Cheaters and the Cheated. De Land, Fla.: Everett/ Edwards, 1973. Contains five assessments of the...

(The entire section is 211 words.)