Skip over navigation

The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Chapters 15–17

Chapter 14

Chapters 15–17, page 2

page 1 of 3
Summary

Chapter 15

Tod stops in at the Greeners', where Harry tells him that Faye is at the movies with Homer. Harry asks Tod what is happening on his movie lot. Harry talks happily about his performances until he has to stop in pain. Tod marvels that Harry still continues to act despite truly being sick. Tod notices that Harry's head is almost all face, with little back or top, and that his features allow for only extremes of expression. Tod wonders if actors suffer less than other people, but decides he is wrong. However, he concludes that Harry enjoys self-inflicted suffering, such as putting himself at the mercy of a hostile audience. Tod imagines Harry making an audience follow him through the pathetic history of his life: ambitious young actor marries a beautiful dancer who cheats on him repeatedly, then runs off, leaving him with a baby girl, and misfortune comes.

Faye returns home and she and Tod go out to the hall. Faye tells Tod that Homer is a "dope" and then dismisses Tod, saying she is tired.

Chapter 16

The next day, Tod sees a bunch of people at the Greeners' and learns that Harry has died. Tod goes into the apartment and knocks on Faye's door. Sobbing, she lets him in and he pats her shoulder. Another knock comes at the door and Tod admits Mary Dove, who embraces Faye. Mary exhorts Faye to be brave and reassures her that there is no particular cause for her father's death.

Faye explains that she came home from the studio and, while fixing herself in the mirror, began talking to Harry without waiting for an answer. She talked at length before finally noticing that he was dead. Faye tells Mary and Tod about the fun she and Harry had when she was little, which causes Mary to begin sobbing also. Tod hears another knock and opens to door to find Mrs. Johnson, the janitress. Faye signals to Tod not to let the woman in, so Tod asks her to return later and shuts the door. Mrs. Johnson uses her passkey to reopen the door and let herself into Faye's room. Tod already disliked Mrs. Johnson, whom he had seen in the apartment building before, and later discovers that "her hobby was funerals." Mrs. Johnson authoritatively asks Faye about funeral plans. She tells Faye that she will need $200 for a proper funeral and that she can pay in installments. Mary and Tod volunteer money.

As Mrs. Johnson leaves, Faye seems less distraught, probably because the business talk has distracted her. Faye turns to Mary and asks if she can get into Mrs. Jenning's call-service. Tod sees both girls as suddenly hardened, and realizes that they have switched their speech to slang to make themselves feel more self-sufficient and worldly-wise. Tod again offers to get the money for the funeral so Faye will not have to prostitute herself, but the girls dismiss him and his offer with shouts.

Chapter 17

Tod has drunk heavily in preparation for Harry's funeral so he will have enough nerve to fight with Faye. He bows his head next to Harry's open coffin in the chapel. Mrs. Johnson quarrels with the undertaker about the quality of the coffin. Tod sees Faye and approaches her, speechless. She misunderstands this as pity on Tod's part and sobs harder in self-pity. She looks more beautiful than ever, but Tod can only think of the acts of prostitution she must have committed in order to pay for such nice clothes.

More Help

Previous Next
silver - not shoe polish

by anon_2223155894, March 03, 2015

In the resume of ch. 11 you state that Harry was trying to sell shoe polish - not true!

Follow Us