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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

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full title · The Day of the Locust

author · Nathanael West

type of work · Novel

genre · Hollywood novel; modernist novel; Depression novel ; noir

language · English

time and place written · 1934–1938, Hollywood

date of first publication · 1939

publisher · Random House

narrator · Third-person omniscient narrator

point of view · The narrator tells the majority of the story from the point of view of Tod Hackett—we see what Tod thinks about others, and Tod's surroundings are narrated using words that Tod would use. However, a small section of the book is written from the point of view of Homer Simpson. The passages told from Homer's point of view seem to take Homer's words less than Tod's. Thus even when we are presented with Homer's solitary surroundings and activities, the language can sound like Tod's.

tone · The novel is satirical, bitter, and unsympathetic in tone. Most of the novel is told from Tod's point of view, which is largely one of intellectual and analytical detachment. There is little humor in the tone aside from occasional black humor.

tense · Present tense, with flashbacks

setting (time) · 1930s

setting (place) · Hollywood and surrounding areas of Los Angeles

protagonist · Tod Hackett and Homer Simpson

major conflict · Tod becomes more and more attracted to Faye Greener, yet also feels a desire to hurt her or even rape her. At the same time, several other men, including Homer Simpson, become attracted to Faye as well. Additionally, the non-performing population of Hollywood—the recent, once hopeful emigrants from other parts of America—become increasingly disillusioned and furious that Hollywood has nothing of substance to offer them. They become bored and bitter and increasingly can find release only in salacious or violent spectacle.

rising action · Tod meets Homer Simpson and recognizes a fellow Faye-lover. He also sees in Homer elements of the people he wants to paint—the starers who populate the streets of Hollywood, hungry for something and not getting it.

climax · Violence erupts at Miguel and Earle's campsite and Tod chases Faye through the woods; violence erupts again after the cockfight at Homer's house, over the matter who will dance with Faye.

falling action · Tod decides to give up his desire for Faye as it makes him as desperate as the people he is trying to paint. Faye runs away, possibly with Miguel, leaving Homer's shell of self-containment shattered. Homer becomes uncharacteristically violent, attacking a child, Adore. The masses of disillusioned Hollywood crowds attack Homer.

themes · Frustrated searches; the mutual degradation of audience and performers; the commodification of beauty and romance; the perverted violence of the mob

motifs · The grotesque; rehearsed song and dance performances; non-humorous laughter

symbols · "The Burning of Los Angeles"; the dream dump; the gamecocks and hen; Homer's hands

foreshadowing · The army outside Tod's window at the studio and the fake mob scenes at Mrs. Jenning's foreshadow the riot at the end of the novel

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