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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Chapters 22–23

Chapters 20–21

Chapters 24–26

Summary

Chapter 22

Abe, Earle, Miguel, Claude, and Tod have already drunk quite a lot when Homer comes out to the garage to invite them in for a drink. When they come inside, Faye greets them and orders Homer to get drinks from the kitchen. She is wearing green silk lounge pajamas with several buttons open, revealing part of her chest. Homer serves drinks and all the men sit down, leaving Faye standing. The men all admire Faye, and Claude even gives a low whistle. Claude compliments Faye on her silk pajamas, and she gives him her private smile that appears to indicate intimacy but is really just a reflex on her part. Mistaking the intent of Faye's smile, Claude gives her his seat and listens willingly as she talks vapidly about her determination to have a film career. The men watch the movements of Faye's body as she talks, completely ignoring what she is saying.

Tod feels Homer tap him on the shoulder but refuses to turn and listen. Homer gives up and takes a seat. When Tod finally looks at Homer, he is annoyed by the superiority and self-pity of the smile Homer gives in return. Tod leaves the house and clumsily walks to the curb. Homer soon follows and Tod offers him only the barest friendly encouragement. Tod wonders why he no longer feels sympathy for Homer, only malice. They can hear Abe's staccato laugh coming from inside the house, and Tod cryptically tells Homer that he could "learn from" Abe. Homer tries to tell Tod something several times, but fails without encouragement. Homer tries to keep his own hands captive, but they break loose to play "here's the church and here the steeple." Tod becomes annoyed, and Homer explains that he has to complete the sequence of hand motions three times.

Homer and Tod here Faye mournfully singing a song about marijuana inside the house. Homer confesses that Faye has been drinking too much lately and that he has been unhappy since Earle has come to live in his garage. Tod promises to report the illegal chickens to the Board of Health, but warns Homer that this will only get rid of Miguel and that he will have to kick Earle out himself. Homer is loathe to take such a bold action. While Faye still sings inside the house, Homer, calling Tod "Toddie," asks him not to be angry and takes Tod's hand, again trying to tell him something. Tod becomes impatient with this Midwestern nickname and finally screams at Homer that Faye is a whore. Homer gets up and returns to the house. Faye's wailing voice continues from inside the house.

Chapter 23

Tod returns to the house, where Abe, Claude, and Earle watch Miguel and Faye dance the tango. Faye's pajama top is completely unbuttoned. Tod has two more drinks and approaches Claude and the others, but they ignore him. He leaves to look for Homer, but finds his bedroom locked. Tod asks Homer to let him in, but Homer tells him to go away. Tod returns to the living room to find that Earle has his eyes closed and both arms wrapped around Faye as they clumsily dance the foxtrot. Miguel and Claude laugh at the couple.

Abe runs over and grabs at Earle, demanding that he be allowed a turn to dance. Faye tweaks Abe's nose and Earle shoves him to the ground, but the dwarf refuses to let them continue dancing. Abe finally charges headfirst into Earle and grabs his genitals. Earle falls over, ripping Faye's pajamas on the way down. Miguel grabs Abe by the ankles and slams his head against the wall. Claude and Tod stop him before he can slam the dwarf again. They take the unconscious Abe into the kitchen and run cold water over him.

Back in the living room, Miguel and Claude help Earle to the couch. Faye removes her ripped pajamas, standing in her black lace underwear. She walks away, going to bed. Claude and Tod agree to leave and to take Abe with them. Abe wants to go whoring downtown, but Claude and Tod leave him in his car and head home.

Analysis

Chapter 22 opens with Faye performing her stock of various roles. This time, even Claude, an experienced movie man, is fooled and enraptured by Faye's artificial gestures and mannerisms. Faye's performance offers no real connection with her audience, as we see when Claude misinterprets her token "intimate" smile for the real thing. Faye's conversation barely needs the support of the others as she talks endlessly and mindlessly about her career. Her performance is disconcertingly mechanical, and her trademark gestures do not correlate with the words she speaks.

If the interactions between Faye and Claude are characterized by misunderstandings and false connections, Tod completely understands Homer's repressed emotions and the way they manifest in Homer's strange physical behavior. Though Tod has the perceptiveness to potentially make a connection with Homer, he refuses to do so. Earlier in the novel he feels solidarity with and sympathy for Homer, as they are both obsessed with Faye. However, by this point, Tod has lost patience with Faye and with Homer's continued obsession over Faye.

Homer's clumsy and unwelcome attempts at affectionate display implicitly point to the lack of affection between the characters we have seen thus far. His attempts to reach out to Tod seem hopelessly out of place, imported from the Midwest, perhaps. Homer's innocent affection is also undermined by the interspersed lyrics of the song Faye sings inside, which evokes a set of human interactions buffered and anesthetized by drugs.

Back inside, the violence that erupts around Faye replays elements of the garage cockfight, as Abe grabs Earle's genitals in the same way that Abe scratches his gamecock's genitals in an attempt to rouse him for another round of fighting. The violence begins as something of an entertainment: Earle's kick to Abe's stomach replays exactly one of the choreographed moves described in the review of Harry Greener's stage act. The laughter of Claude, Faye and the others recalls the laughter of Harry's audience at his pain. Throughout the episode, even as the violence escalates, Faye seems languidly oblivious to the sexual frenzy she inspires.

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