There is little real character development in Horace McCoy’s novel. It might be said, however, that the characters become more deeply and essentially themselves, especially Gloria Beatty. From the outset, McCoy characterizes Gloria as a woman in the throes of extreme alienation. Brought up in West Texas by a sexually abusive uncle and a bickering aunt, Gloria has never known love, security, or happiness. Her experiences in Los Angeles in the depths of the Depression have only strengthened and reconfirmed her sense of life as desolate, absurd, and entirely unrewarding. Already having survived one suicide attempt, Gloria is increasingly obsessed with finding the courage and means to kill herself. A woman without any of the comforting illusions that allow people to function in the modern world, Gloria is a figure both monstrous and fascinating. Her nihilism is paradoxical. Though it is socially offensive and self-destructive, there is something to be said for the unflinching honesty and truthfulness that such nihilism exemplifies. In a world of sham, delusion, and hypocrisy, Gloria, to her credit, is having none of it. On the other hand, Gloria Beatty errs in equating a senile capitalist America with life itself. Her negativity is too radical and all-encompassing—it misses a greater truth about life.
Compared to Gloria, Robert Syverten is a rather weak and insipid figure through much of the novel. If Gloria remains stuck in disillusionment, Robert is...
(The entire section is 589 words.)